Memories of Cities
This exhibition, a first for the capital, highlights several questions that arise when we consider the artist’s individual relationships, specifically that with place: what is his personal connection to the chosen city or locality; how has he presented it; and what is the deeper significance of his particular choice? Wherein lies his inspiration?
It also explores what the artist of Middle Eastern origin can distinctively present to counteract the flood of negative information and images that so easily reach us across borders and boundaries via technology and social networks? Firstly, what is the impact of this at a personal level; and secondly, what is its reflection and influence on a western audience?
This project aims to gather individual memories and combine them into a collective memory that activates the dynamics between past and present. It is also an opportunity for several Syrian artists across the generations to explore these questions through their art and to present the results to a western audience in London for the very first time. Some of the participating artists still live in Syria despite the current war, while others live abroad.
Each artist has his own individual experiences and techniques, yet their common origin enriches our vision of a different society; in one way or another, the artists of this society continue to use art as a language with which to address the world, a language that distills their emotional and spiritual responses to the travails of existence.
Cities offer rich experiences of all cultural activity, so there is often a need to identify and separate the different cultures and their artists, independent of the surrounding political culture. Here, in this exhibition, the artists have total freedom to interpret as they please, enriching our collective memories and giving a more profound understanding of different cities and their cultures.
What unites these artists is their origin and what their country and cities have been through, from slow, natural evolution to the man-made whirlwinds of change, in which Syria is not alone. We are not isolated from each other’s outcomes; the exchange of ideas and artistic vision with others is never more necessary and important than in these conditions.
Throughout history, the memory of cities has been subject to revision and evolution. Artists pass on, but cities endure; however, when cities disappear completely, the artists’ works serve as testaments, trace memories for us all.
mixed media on canvas 130x130cm 2017
Inc,Acrylic & Collage on paper 50X70cm
A word from Hiba Sabra
As a Syrian living abroad, I have long developed a yearning for the cities of my youth – I remember the energy, ambition, power and hope embodied in each of them, particularly that of my hometown and birthplace, the coastal city of Tartous. This yearning resonates even more sadly now: these cities have been touched by war and I have witnessed the slow destruction of some, the relentless and deep damage to others, until all that remains of what they were are memories.
I have brought together this exhibition as a series of challenges to those who would reflect on these pieces: a challenge to apathy and forgetfulness, so that we remember as they were cities that may no longer be here; a challenge to eastern culture, particularly to those aspects of it that may underestimate my abilities as a woman and an artist; a challenge to western values that may equally underestimate the capabilities of my eastern art and culture – we the assembled artists are, individually and as representatives of our culture at large, the equals of our western peers, as demonstrated here; and finally, a challenge to a change in the perception of my status as a Syrian expatriate, feeling both welcome and unwelcome in my second country while recognizing the hold my home country will always have on me. Ultimately, I hope these artworks stand as eternal testament to the truth and memories that reside within each of these cities, so many of which have been destroyed, but all of which live on just the same.