World renowned Syrian artist, Tammam Azzam, is currently exhibiting works from his latest series, 'Storeys', at Galerie Kornfeld in West Berlin. Last week, we went along to take a closer look...
Made famous by his seminal work 'Freedom Graffiti', in which he superimposed Gustav Klimt's 'The Kiss' onto a bombed Syrian building, Tammam Azzam aims to 'draw attention to the tragedy of Syria'.
'Freedom Graffiti', Tammam Azzam - Image via The Independent
Having fled to Dubai in 2011 at the beginning of the uprisings, Tammam Azzam remains deeply tied to Syria, and heartbroken by the overwhelming destruction of his home country. Through his art, Azzam speaks out against the the brutal Assad and I.S. regimes, and the West's narrativization of the conflict: "How many gassed bodies of children do you need? Why is Syria a plaything? Why is it simply entertainment?"
As well as providing a critique on the Syrian conflict, Azzam wishes to connect through his art, sharing a message that despite our differences, 'we are all citizens of the same world.' This message is seen in 'Freedom Graffiti' and other works from his 'Syrian Museum' series.
'Untitled', Tammam Azzam - image via ArtatBerlin
In his latest series, 'Storeys', Tammam Azzam takes inspiration from the architectural devastation of his homeland, recreating the destroyed buildings using thousands of pieces of paper layered upon each other- his new collection contains 50,000 pieces of of paper!
Azzam's collage canvases are vast, and the viewer is immediately struck by the detail of each piece. Up close, the work is chaotic with no discernible pattern; the amount of tiny paper pieces all clumped together feels overwhelming. It is only when stepping back to survey the piece in its entirety that you can see the outline of walls, windows, and people.
'Untitled', Tammam Azzam - both photos taken at Galerie Kornfeld
The mosaic-like technique used by Azzam is perfectly suited to capturing the physical and metaphysical fragmentation of Syria. By taking images of destroyed Syrian landscapes and turning them into 3D art, he is transforming them into universal symbols of the destruction of war. The total devastation evident in his images is contrasted with the vibrant reds, greens, pinks and blues, which only adds to the sense of chaos and surrealism. This contrast between colour, shape and texture creates an aesthetic which immediately resonates with the viewer. This idea of universal significance is echoed by Galerie Kornfeld director, Tilman Treusch, who writes in his introductory letter, "The visual power of his abstractions creates an identification space for those who have not experienced the catastrophe of war on their own: a kind of singular generality that is directly linked to Syria, but also expresses an experience of shared global terror."
On a purely aesthetic level, Tammam Azzam's work is visually stunning. The distressing context can never be forgotten, however when you simply look at each canvas and see the multitude of tiny fragments of colour, all layered and intertwined so skillfully, you cannot help but think how beautiful these pieces are.
'Untitled', Tammam Azzam - Photo taken at Galerie Kornfeld
*** The Tammam Azzam exhibition at Galerie Kornfeld will be running until October 20th. Everybody, check it out! :) If you would like to see more artwork from Azzam's latest series, then you can view them on the Kornfeld online gallery. ***