By George Ware
The Essex University art gallery is currently playing host to the Movement of the People art exhibition from September 29th to December 10th displaying art of many mediums created by Syrian artists.
The Movement of the People is all about to the conflict in Syria, dedicating pieces of art to those who have died in the conflict as well as sending a strong political message. The exhibition has been split in to three parts. While the first may have already passed, part two lasts until November 26th and the third opens on the 1st December and closes on the 10th of the same month. The event’s brochure describes it an event that “brings together work by internationally renowned artists and street activists to focus on the war in Syria and the effect of conflict on a shifting, often displaced, population”.
From what I saw, the main target of the artist’s activism was Assad’s regime in Syria. In the form of posters and paintings, Assad was depicted as a murder and a butcher. One such poster showed a silhouette of Assad, clutching a butcher’s cleaver behind his back, while a long line of children look up, expectantly. It’s certainly a striking poster and it sets the tone for everything else to come. The artists want to send a message to the anyone that will listen that the situation in Syria at the moment is dire. On one side, President Assad is persecuting the population, on the other ISIS is carving up territory and preaching hate. I think that the art in this exhibition does a good job in expressing these issues. All of the art on display garners a response from those who look at it, whether that be of shock, awe or respect and admiration. The art is extremely clear in that, whomever looks at it, knows what the artist is trying to convey.
One of the most surprising pieces was that of a recorded puppet show series called “Top Goon”. This takes a much more satirical view of President Assad. One of the curators told me that the best way to damage the regime in Syria would be to simply “make fun of it”. The ability to take a serious topic like Syria and turn it in to a comedy full of political satire, I imagine, would take some serious doing, especially when you consider the danger. After all, the reason these views are being expressed through art is not just to create a rousing feeling among many people but also because if they were to go out on to the streets and protest there would be consequences if you were caught. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Ali Ferzat, a political cartoonist, who had his fingers broken for drawing cartoons damaging to the Assad regime. The artwork is certainly well made and entertaining but it is also very sobering.
From my experience at the art gallery, I can confirm that it was an eye-opening experience and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know what happens in Syria. The art is great and it’s definitely worth your time.