Palestinian artists have their say at Artbooth Gallery exhibition in capital - GulfToday

Palestinian artists have their say at Artbooth Gallery exhibition in capital

Wadeei Khaled’s work in colours and ink on paper.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Artbooth Gallery in Abu Dhabi is presenting A Real Bad Dream, an exhibition that weaves tales of displacement and resilience as seen through the eyes of artists Oussama Diab and Wadeei Khaled (May 2 – 27) at the gallery spaces located on the ground floor of Centro Capital Centre by Rotana, ADNEC area, Abu Dhabi.

Diab, a Palestinian-Syrian Dutch artist, alongside Khaled, a visionary hailing from Palestine, explode into a narrative journey that combines their personal experiences with the tumultuous history of their homeland. Through A Real Bad Dream, viewers are invited to explore the terrain of individual and collective memories, manifested in the rich variety of the artworks.

Diab’s art reflects his strong spirit no less than the resilience of his people. Born in Syria and living in Lebanon before seeking refuge in Holland, his art is full of copious, colourful stories. Each painting of his displays a surreal scene about life’s challenges and beauty.

His artistry is a reflection of a world where surrealism blends with the (harsh) realities of life. His evolution as an artist has been marked by a shift from the clarity of human figures to the abstraction of human existence.

The transition signals a deeper contemplation on the state of humanity amidst turmoil. His earlier works, defined by the sharp details of human forms, symbolised his belief in the triumph of humanity. However, as tumultuous events have unfolded, especially in Gaza, Diab’s art began reflecting a more complex reality – one where the outlines of humanity are blurred, its victories uncertain.

His latest works are abstract, capturing the essence of human beings in nature and life, striving to move forward amidst chaos. In his investigation of the human condition, Diab skillfully blends various art schools - from figurative cubism to abstraction - to create a cohesive narrative nevertheless.

Each painting is a world unto itself; different schools of art come together to depict the resilience of the human spirit and indomitable nature of the human will.

Diab’s blend of acrylic and charcoal adds depth and vibrancy to his works, making each canvas a mirror reflection of the global stage. All the paintings are a theatre for Diab, wherein he archives everything that’s happening in the world.

He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 2002 and has worked through various painting styles, often combining different forms and techniques in a single composition. His early works were done in a neo-expressionist style, resonating with influences from Jean Michel Basquiat.

He moved onto large canvases which carried scattered drawings and thick layers of paint in deep colour; he had embraced iconography and primitivism and a dash of pop art. He would add props and signs into his paintings, which could be instantly identified with the Palestinian experience.

For example, he would picture Mona Lisa with a keffiyeh; sometimes she would hold a Kalashnikov. He went on to apply Cubism to his characters. In a response to the intense turmoil in the Arab world due to conflicts and migration, Diab began depicting fractured bodies in empty, isolated settings. That he set his characters against decorative and ornamental backgrounds, only increased the sadness of their existence.

  Theatre. Untitled work by Oussama Diab in mixed media on canvas.

Khaled’s artworks are a tribute to the resilience of those who stay connected to their roots, despite having to deal with adversity when doing so. Inspired by the resilient landscapes of Palestine, the writings of Ghassan Kanafani, and other classics of Arab Resistance literature, Khaled’s paintings are deep meditations on belonging, identity, and the nature of endurance. His connection to his homeland saturates his art, exploring the persistence and resilience inherent in the human spirit.

He was born in Al-Arroub Refugee Camp, Hebron Governorate of the State of Palestine, in 1986. Colours had become his favorite companions right in early childhood. He made a mark in the art world at age 13, when he held an art exhibition in Al-Arroub. He began painting directly on the walls of the camp, eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Al-Quds University. He has participated in many local and international exhibitions since then.

He is impressed by Impressionists. Like them, he enjoys playing with light, colours and shadows. “It is a logical, scientific school that analyses colour, shadows, and sunlight,” he says. “You find yourself drawing as though you were solving mathematical or physics equations — in addition to producing a beautiful piece of art.”

One of his most recognised projects is his narration of art history for children, The History of Palestinian Art for Children (2016). It is a collection of short stories told through paintings, focusing on prominent Palestinian figures. The artworks depict scenes and stories of Palestinians from times reaching back to ancient Canaanites. Khaled would like to uncover the secrets that lie buried in his land through his paintings.

A Real Bad Dream is envisaged as a dialogue – not only between the artists and the audience, but also between the dreams of individuals and the stark realities of conflict zones. Roger Khoury, founder of Artbooth Gallery, expresses the gallery’s enthusiasm for the exhibition.

“The works of Diab and Khaled are not merely artistic expressions, but are narratives that bridge the gap between viewers and the complex emotions of those experiencing displacement and resilience,” he says. “A Real Bad Dream invites you to witness the power of art in conveying the profound stories of struggle and hope.”


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