Behind the Lines | Contemporary Syrian Art

A Travelling Exhibition Across Canada

Behind the Lines | Contemporary Syrian Art is travelling across Canada since 2016 until today with a new stop at Dawson Creek Art Gallery, 101, 816 Alaska Avenue Dawson Creek, BC V1G 4T6 Canada, January 28 – March 8, 2019.

Behind the Lines displays the work of 20 contemporary Syrian artists, first shown 2016 at the Penticton Art Gallery. The pieces are from a range of mediums, including sculpture, painting, drawing, mixed media, digital art and photography:

Omran Younis, Obaidah Zorik, Huda Takriti, Reem Tarraf, Maiesam Mallisho, Fadi Al Hamwi, Mahmood Al Daoud, Alaa Sharabi, Juhayda AlBitar, Mohammad Zaza, Lina Malki, Khaled Dawwa,  Ali Almeer, Khaled Youssef, Khaled Akil,  Ammart Khadour, Humam Alsalim, Rami Bakhos, Fadi Al Hamwi, Huda Takriti.

The first exhibition at the Penticton Art Gallery was co-curated by Penticton Art Gallery Curator – Paul Crawford and Syrian architect Humam Alsalim. Alsalim is the founder of Cyrrus Gallery, an online platform for the promotion of contemporary Syrian artists, and the co-founder of the non-for-profit SYRIA.ART – Association pour la Promotion de l’Art Contemporain Syrien that seeks to provide a diverse, open overview of the Syrian art scene, and to shed light upon the dynamism currently characterising Contemporary Syrian Art in Syria, Europe and the rest of the world.


In the midst of a conflict that has gripped the entire world, a connection created through art is thus bringing Canada and Syria closer together. Art has always been a venue for human expression in all cultures, and sometimes it seems the greatest pieces arise from our times of deepest suffering. With no end in sight to the current violence in the Middle East, some Syrians are turning to art as a way of coping and expressing to the world what the conflict is costing their country.

Syrian architect Humam Alsalim and Penticton Art Gallery Curator – Paul Crawford collaborated in 2015 via the internet to arrange for 100 works of art by these 20 Syrian artists to be sent out from behind the lines of the Syrian War to be first exhibited at the Penticton Art Gallery.

“This work is powerful, raw and striking and I think could be the most important exhibitions I have undertaken. I am indebted to Humam Alsalim for curating this exhibition from his home in Damascus. It’s been a real feat of trust on both sides and I think we are both in awe that it has come all together on time and as planned. In total he has brought together the following 20 artists some of whom are still living in Syria and some of whom have fled and re-established themselves outside of Syria.” Crawford explains.

Behind the Lines | Contemporary Syrian Art aims to explore conflict zones and to see the people of Syria through art. Most of the 20 artists featured here still live in Syria. They come from places made familiar through news reports like Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. Many are now in Damascus. Some have left Syria altogether.

Crawford has described the work as “a testament to the capacity of the human spirit”. He added, “I hope these exhibitions will help build an even greater understanding of the Syrian people, their art and culture.”


The works all reference the devastating situation in Syria or are informed by it. Humam Alsalim and Rami Bakhos’ Cultural Beheading series mourns and rages against both literal and metaphorical destruction. The body parts in Omran Younis’s paintings are a graphic reminder of the horrors of war. Those depicted in Lina Malki’s Displaced series have a palpable sorrow. Fadi al-Hamwi’s large paintings of X-rayed cow hybrids discloses the brutal animality of the human and how war provokes and exposes the dark side of humanity. Khaled Dawwa’s clay sculptures that appear to be vandalized or corroded by time are informed by his own experience: He was injured in a 2013 bombing, then arrested, imprisoned, and now exiled. Khaled Youssef’s photographs of bubbles are tragic in their fragility yet childlike, as the artist says, “Make bubbles not war”.

Behind the Lines is not for the faint of heart, but it also affirms the incredible capacity of the human spirit to not only survive the most unimaginable circumstances, but thrive. For those still living in Syria there are few opportunities to exhibit and as such they have nothing left to lose and are making art for the sake of art. Individually and collectively their powerful work stands as a testament to their existence and hopefully will inspire similar voices not only in Syria but also here in Canada. This exhibition is meant to build a greater understanding of the Syrian People, their art, rich culture, history and the turmoil their country is undergoing.

“Over the last year I could have never predicted or even fathomed how relevant this shows would become due to the change in our government and the influx of all these Syrian refugees to our communities,” Crawford says.

Tour History:

Penticton Art Gallery, Penticton, BC Canada
July 8 – September 11, 2016

Duncan United Church, 246 Ingram St, Duncan, BC Canada
November 27 – December 3, 2016

Brentwood College School,  Mt Baker Rd, Mill Bay, BC Canada
December 10 – 17, 2016

Yukon Art Center, College Drive, Whitehorse, Yukon Canada
December 08, 2016 – February 25, 2017

Gallery at The Military Museums, University of Calgary, Alberta Canada
October 12, 2017 – January 7, 2018

Arts Centre at Cedar Hill, 3220 Cedar Hill Road, Victoria BC Canada
January 24 – February 5, 2018

Mahon Hall, Salt Spring Arts Council (SSAC), 114 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, BC Canada
February 16 – February 25, 2018

Langley Centennial Museum & Exhibition Centre, 9135 King St, Langley, BC V1M 2S2 Canada
Juni 9, 2018 – September 3, 2018

Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford, 32388 Veterans Way, Abbotsford BC V2T 0B3 Canada
September 27, 2018 – January 06, 2019

Dawson Creek Art Gallery, 101, 816 Alaska Avenue Dawson Creek, BC V1G 4T6 Canada
January 28 – March 8, 2019


– Paul Crawford, Penticton, British Colombia, Canada, Director of Penticton Art Gallery.

– Humam Alsalim, Berlin, Germany, founder of Cyrrus Gallery and the co-founder of the non-for-profit SYRIA.ART – Association pour la Promotion de l’Art Contemporain Syrien.

Syria – The Garden of History: Calligrapher Khaled Al Saai

Khaled Al Saai has been working on a commissioned work for an exhibition from 21.09.2018 to 11.10.2018 in the Mschatta Hall of the Museum of Islamic Art, Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

From February 2019 onwards Khaled Al Saai’s painting “Syria – The Garden of History” will be exhibited in a major exhibition entitled “Cultural Landscape of Syria – Preservation and Archiving in Times of War”.


Khaled Al Saai uses Arabic calligraphy to express feelings and thoughts. He works in an astonishing range of styles, from subtle classical forms that he often uses for quotes from poetry, to radically inventive compositions in which lettering is fragmented into fantastical, almost pictorial, compositions. On his travels he was inspired by cities, landscapes and architecture, the hustle and bustle of people on the streets and the changing seasons. The letters and words of his works are not arranged in straight lines, but flow densely, detached from one-another, in the imaginary space of the canvas. The interwoven letters follow their own rhythm and combine with breathtaking beauty.

Khaled Al Saai, born in 1970 in Homs, Syria, grew up with painting, music and calligraphy. At eighteen, he had already made a name for himself as a calligrapher. After graduating from the University of Damascus, he became an internationally recognized master of Arabic calligraphy. Khaled Al Saai has participated in many international art competitions and has had numerous solo exhibitions in Europe and Middle Eastern countries.


More about the calligraphic artwork by Khaled Al Saai:

“Syria – The Garden of History” tells the story of Syria in different ways. Khaled Al Saai used photographs of the country of Syria and involved art of calligraphy, as the main structure of the painting. There are words or/and lines of poetry around each city to add another level to the paining.

An example: the story starts from the right with Damascus city, the name of the city is written in that space, surrounded with major key marks of this city, but the main structure of the city is based on one letter, which is (sh, ش ) that this letter has many metaphorical interpretations, which represents sun or orient and light, then the lines or surrounding words are a poem about Damascus, in the same space of Damascus there are over than 40 photos collaged, to give the whole dimensions of the city.

So Damascus is an example, but the main structure of the painting are letters and words for the 14 major Syrian cities, and each one has its unique story, as Hasaka حسكة (the city of early watering system, the city of old civilisations, etc), Latakia لاذقية (the city of methodology and early alphabet, the sailing center etc), Aleppo, حلب (the capital of Alhamdaneen state ,the city of Almutanabbi the greatest Arab poet ever, the sense of Arabic music etc).

Further information at

Bucharest Art Week 2017 – Artists Fight Against the Syrian War

War Correspondence

Bucharest Art Week 2017 was this year one of the few major international events from Romania. The “War Correspondence” exhibition was organised by APAC(Romania) in partnership with SYRIA.ART in the framework of the BucharestArtWeek2017, and was co-curated by Humam Alsalim and Nona Șerbănescu.

Venue: Palatul Stirbei, Calea Victoriei, 107, 010069 Bucharest, Romania
Dates: October 14 – October 22, 2017
Curators: Humam Alsalim & Nona Șerbănescu

Syrian and Romanian art was exhibited. Among the featured artists, the exhibition hosted 6 Syrian artists.

Fadi Al-Hamwi | Syria
Humam Alsalim | Syria
Khaled Youssef | Syria
Manhal Issa | Syria
Nizar Ali Badr | Syria
Yaser Safi | Syria
Angela Bontas | Romania
Liviu Coman | Romania
Cristina Iacob | Romania
Mugur Grosu | Romania

Bucharest Art Week 2017 revolved around a deeply sensitive subject: the war in Syria and its consequences. The theme, “War correspondence”, arouse from a series of questions regarding the role of the artist and the meaning of contemporary art in the present context of war ravaging the Middle East and affecting the whole continent on political, administrative, social and cultural levels.

The theme was suggested by Nona Serbanescu, the founder and director of the festival, an artist who is emotionally tied to Syria, through her heritage. This year’s edition will bring together various fields of artistic expression, like theatre, music and visual arts, with guest artists both Syrian and Romanian, for example Yaser Safi, Fadi Al-Hamwi, Khaled Youssef and Humam Alsalim who is the co-curator of the central exhibition of the week together with Nona Șerbănescu.