ART AMIDST CONFLICT: TAMMAM AZZAM'S STORY

Photograph by Sueraya Shaheen

Photograph by Sueraya Shaheen

Tammam Azzam is a Syrian artist living in Dubai. He was displaced by the Syrian Civil War, much of his work reflects the continued violence in his home country. Tammam sat down with Voices, here is his story…

“I left Syria three years, one month and five days ago.

Life as I knew it has ended. The revolution made me another person in life and in art. My family left with nothing, just our suitcases, we started life from zero. No materials, no studio, nothing. When people ask me what I miss most about home I tell them I miss my studio above all other things, it was my sanctuary, especially during my military service. It’s gone now, just a memory… but I am relieved to be in a safe place where I continue with my work and I know that I am among the lucky ones. Slowly we have begun to rebuild our lives here. I now work from my studio attached to Ayyam Gallery in Dubai. It is safe and secure here but it is not permanent.

Syrian Olympic, 2013

Syrian Olympic, 2013

When I left Damascus I was working on a series that I had to abandon as it was no longer relevant – it was made up of stories about people from my city – that was extremely hard and it took a while to recover. My work has changed beyond recognition since then. In Syria, I was a painter, which is what I was known for, now I work mainly in graphic art. At first this led to criticism but as my work has developed people have begun to get used to it. I have also had a fair bit of my work featured in the media in relation to the ongoing crisis in my country so I am particularly proud of that.

Freedom Graffiti, 2013

Freedom Graffiti, 2013

One work in particular changed my life within the space of four hours. When Freedom Graffiti from the series Syrian Museum went viral I remember posting it online and leaving my house, when I came back a few hours later I was bombarded by journalists and by people that I didn’t know on every social network. The series was my attempt to highlight how the whole world could be interested in art and blindly neglect the fact that two hundred people are killed every day in Syria at the time. Goya created a work to immortalize the killing of hundreds of innocent Spanish citizens on May 3, 1808. How many May 3rds do we have in Syria today?

I left Syria three years, one month and five days ago.

Life as I knew it has ended. The revolution made me another person in life and art.”

We’ ll Stay Here, 2012

We’ ll Stay Here, 2012