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‘Stand by Syria’, says multi-talented artist Hala al-Faisal

A self-portrait by Hala al-Faisal: Painting and music, food to the soul. (TAW)

DAMASCUS--After a thirteen-year hiatus in holding exhibitions in Syria, Hala al-Faisal returned to the art scene through a solo exhibition that included new and old paintings, spanning a long period from the beginning of the third millennium until today.

The exhibition is being held in the Syrian capital, Damascus and continues until July 25.

The works on display includes old and new paintings about Syria, women and Roman empress Julia Domna, in addition to portraits and icons showcasing the human condition.

Faisal is a multi-talented artist. She has held many exhibitions inside and outside Syria. She is also a singer and actress, as she appeared in the movie “The Chronicles of the Next Year” by Syrian director Zekra Samir (produced in 1986). She is multilingual, speaking besides Arabic, Russian, French, English, German and Spanish and has lived between the United States, Germany, France,Italy and Spain.

She received global attention in 2005 and sparked widespread controversy when she took off her clothes and stripped naked in New York’s Washington Square Park after she tattooed her body with protest phrases calling for an end to the war in Iraq and Palestine.

A critic said, “Faisal was able at the time to increase the awareness of Americans about the moral nakedness in her country while reminding the Arabs of their moral misery.”

Talking about her current exhibition, Faisal said that,  as always, the human being is her main subject and preoccupation. She added, “I have painted living and silent nature, but I am always drawn to depicting the human body in my paintings.”

Between New York, Berlin, Damascus and Homs, Faisal has remained productive.

In her paintings she has celebrated human faces, with a focuses on the eyes. She says of this, “The eye is the window to the soul and a reflection of the inner suffering experienced by man.”

In addition to the faces, Faisal focuses on the female body, turning it into an aesthetic masterpiece with many connotations and incarnations. It may be painted in the form of a tree with birds around it or a player carrying a musical instrument that makes the beholder hear melodies emanating from the colours of the painting.

In addition, she worked on the theme of the naked body of both men and women, arguing boldly against the Arabs’ oppression of the body.

Amid the bloody wars and armed conflict sweeping the Arab world, Faisal continued her artistic career, finding solace in painting and music.

She says, “With all the wars caused by the human race, I have nothing left but painting and music.”

About Syria today, she says, “It is necessary to stand by Syria, the country of sophistication, history and the cradle of civilizations and to repel the continuous aggression it faces by embodying its heritage through plastic art.”

Hala al-Faisal was born in Homs in 1960. She graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 1983 and studied in France (Faculty of Fine Arts in Paris) and  New York, as well as at the Higher Institute of Cinema in Moscow (1985 – 1989). She studied painting in New York and Damascus, travelled a lot and lived in Germany and the United States for several years, where she continued her career.

She has staged more than thirty solo exhibitions in Syria since 1983, and has held other exhibitions in Lebanon, France, Italy and Germany, but especially in New York. Her works are held in numerous public and private collections around the world.

(The Arab Weekly)

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