Welcoming speech by Prof. Dr. Christoph Grunenberg 
Director Kunsthalle Bremen

"Who knows himself and others will know here: Orient and Occident, are no longer to be separated" are the famous words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his West-Eastern Divan, which first appeared 200 years ago. Despite an allegedly total networking and global perspective of the art world today, the reception horizon is surprisingly still limited to certain geographical areas of origin, strictly regulated subject areas, and certain codified forms of expression of art production. The internationality of the art world often goes hand in hand with an astonishing provinciality.

This exhibition provides a glimpse of the surprising diversity of art in Syria and Syrian art in exile. The artists in the exhibition appear deeply rooted in the country's rich cultural and artistic traditions and mythological heritage. At the same time, they assimilate the achievements of Western Modernism, especially in the reception of figurative painting and expressive modes of representation. The human being is clearly in focus, though less as an identifiable individual than as a metaphor for loneliness, being lost and suffering, but also for community and solidarity. Occasionally, certain abstract and ornamental elements also appear, pointing to a long tradition of creative exchange between East and West, Antiquity and Modernism, Christian and Islamic culture.

The exhibited works transcend political events of the day - they tell us of a mean humanity, of the universal horror of war and shared suffering, as well as of faith in life, confidence in a better and more peaceful future, the celebration of small joys and hopes. The exhibition is thus a welcome opening of perspective, questioning familiar ways of seeing and confronting us with new questions and our own artistic language.

 

„Artists emerging from Syrian suffering“
by Dr. Ass`ad Urabi

The exhibition shows works by seven artists who all belong to the movement that dominates the enlightened spirit of the Syrian artist, namely Expressionism in all its diversity: the committed, the socio-spiritual or the psychological.

There are four generations representing this direction: The first generation, the sixties, are the founders of the Faculty of Arts in Damascus. The initiative of these artists is also reflected in the time of the artists of the seventies generation who collaborated with them in the teaching activities of the faculty, some of them before their time of study in Europe. The third generation of the eighties worked at the same time as the Homs Group. Edwar Shahda is one of them. The artist group of Lattakia, on the other hand, is made up of several generations, including Layla Noussair and Nizar Sabour. The young nineties generation suffered the most from the war events. Many of them emigrated to Europe or to neighbouring Arab countries. However, the artists represented in this exhibition all live and work in Syria.

Despite the considerable time difference of half a century, the influence of German Expressionism, especially on the spiritual level, can be seen in the works shown. For the painting is an epic testimony of human suffering, whether spiritual or physical, especially in times of war. The Syrian painter Marwan Kassab-Bachi, who lived in Germany, is regarded as a bridge between the art of Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Otto Dix, Käthe Kollwitz, Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and the art of his homeland.