Fade to Black

Fade to Black

The psychological toll of Syria’s war in one breathtaking minute:

Filmmaker Amer Albarzawi was living in Raqqa, Syria, two years ago as it became the stronghold of the Islamic State.

“They changed our culture. They changed everything,” he said.

The group, which he calls by the pejorative term “Daesh”, quickly instituted a series of rules that transformed daily life of Raqqa’s people. “One day, no smoking. Next day, no boys and girls together on the street,” Albarzawi said. “After one month, no girls and boys in school [together], then they have to put hijab on the girls. Then, [they said] ‘We don’t want to study this history, physics, mathematics, we want to change it’ … I’m Muslim, but it’s strange for me.”

Fade to Black
“Fade to Black,” a film by Amer Albarzawi and Farah Presley.

This series of changes and their psychological toll is at the forefront of “Fade to Black,” a one-minute stop-motion film that Albarzawi filmed with actor Farah Presley. The two have lived together in Istanbul, Turkey, since the end of 2014 and began working on the film in March.

Stop-motion seemed like a “new way” of portraying the effects of the war as well as an accessible one, with the materials they needed easily attainable, Albarzawi said. “I like stop-motion because we can use many of materials around us,” he said.

Each frame speaks to a moment from the months Albarzawi lived in Raqqa as the city watched its former way of life disappear, he said.

It is more important than ever for Syrian artists to keep producing work, in part to keep Syrian history and culture alive, he said. “The culture now, in Syria, I think it’s disappearing … Maybe we will lose our culture,” he said.

A still from “Fade to Black,” a film by Amer Albarzawi and Farah Presley.
A still from “Fade to Black,” a film by Amer Albarzawi and Farah Presley.

Syrian art can also help correct the misconceptions that dominate many conversations about Syrian refugees in the U.S., Albarzawi said. “They have to know, we are normal people, we are human, just like all humans,” he said. “We are Muslims, and we are not terrorists.”

The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Toronto Urban Film Festival this year, and the two are already working on their next film, Presley said.

“As a Syrian artist, I think it’s important to show what’s going on in Syria now, to reflect the reality,” Presley said. “Because Syrians are the only ones who know what’s really going on. They feel it in every step.”

Source: Corinne Segal November 20, 2015

Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) – Special Jury Prize and Honourable Mention went to the film,
Fade to Black by Director Amer Albarzawi (Damascus, Syria)
A symbolic look at extremism affecting the war in Syria


Painting is the most marvellous activity…

Frank Auerbach: ‘Painting is the most marvellous activity humans have invented’

Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach

When Frank Auerbach looks back over his nearly 70-year career as an artist he declares himself “lucky” that it was a process that moved slowly. “You’re at school and you like some reproductions in books: Van Gogh, Gauguin. Then you do a bit of painting and you think it’s fairly easy. When you start doing it more seriously you soon begin to have a nice time, you meet lots of girls … ” And all this, he says, comes with the heady allure of a freedom from responsibilities and the ties of a nine-to-five job. So why has he adhered to a regime over much of the last 60 years that is far more restrictive than anything an employer would impose, often working seven days and five nights a week and barely leaving the small patch of north London near the studio where he both works and sleeps?

“Well, you start to realise that painting is not quite as easy as you thought. In fact what you are doing isn’t really painting at all. You gradually see how much of a historical backlog there is, and if you don’t take it into account you are doing nothing more than fiddling about. At first I had to struggle to find the time to work, and then when I got a bit of time it seemed absolutely bonkers not to use it for painting. Once or twice when I was young I did try to go away for a couple of days, to Brighton or Oxford, for a break, and I just didn’t know what the hell to do with myself. I felt impatient and bored. But I can be alone working in London for days on end and feel completely happy.”

Sources: Nicholas Wroe / Saturday 16 May 2015 – Direct2Artist – http://news.direct2artist.com/frank-auerbach-painting-is-the-most-marvellous-activity-humans-have-invented-the-guardian/

Syrian Creative Havens

NEW PROJECT: Creative Havens: Syrian Artists And Their Studios


Creative Havens: Syrian Artists And Their Studios
 is a project granting us rare access to the studios of the greatest contemporary Syrian artists – or artists of Syrian descent – living and working both in and outside Syria today. It provides a compelling behind-the-scenes glimpse into their artistic processes: a snapshot of extreme creativity, passionate experimentalism, and sometimes also chaos.

The elaborate Website brims with specially commissioned photographs – portraits, artists at work, places of inspiration, studio environments – and keen-witted interviews. The artists not only open the doors to their studios, but also grant access into their thoughts. They express their opinions in all aspects of contemporary Syrian art, thereby painting a vivid picture of what it means to be a Syrian artist today.


56th Venice Biennale

Shurooq Amin, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, and Khaled Hafez at 56th Venice Biennale


Eye of the Thunderstorm: Effervescent Practices from the Arab World
9 May – 22 November 2015

Shurooq Amin, Sadik Alfraji, and Khaled Hafez will be part of In the Eye of the Thunderstorm: Effervescent Practices from the Arab World,a collateral project at the 56th Venice Biennale gathering a pan-Arab line-up of artists under one pavilion. Commissioned by ContemporaryPractices’ Omar Donia and curated by Martina Corgnati, the group show aims at highlighting the diversity of practices in Middle Eastern contemporary art.

Known for her controversial figurative paintings, Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin will be showing, for the first time, a three-piece installation with projections. Following a highly acclaimed solo exhibition curated by Nat Muller and shown at Ayyam Gallery’s Al Quoz outpost inconjunction with Art Dubai week, Sadik Alfraji’s large scale stop motion video animation titled Ali’s Boat will be shown at the pavilion.Khaled Hafez, the most recent addition to Ayyam Gallery’s roster of artists, will be featured with a monumental work from 2010 titled Tomb Sonata in Three Military Movements. 

Safwan Dahoul Dubai Metro Collaboration

Safwan Dahoul Dubai Metro Collaboration


Safwan Dahoul’s iconic portraitures of female protagonists covers the surface of a Dubai Metro carriage. As continuation of Dahoul’s monochromatic Dream series, the newly commissioned pieces see the addition of a crumpled effect that adds to an already heightening dramatic composition.

Part of an initiative launched by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and the Road & Transportation Authority, the project was inaugurated in simultaneity with Art Dubai, and showcased a photographic work by HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum scaled up to one of the metro carriages. Pursuing celebrations of the Dubai Art Season, the carriage adorned by Dahoul’s Dreams is unveiled in conjunction with two more, presenting commissioned works by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais and Algerian Rachid Koraichi. Bringing art closer to local audiences, the project also aims at highlighting the multicultural circle of art practitioners living in Dubai.