AMMAN – The month of October celebrated the spirit of emerging artistic talents in the region, as it kick-started with a specially curated group exhibition by the prominent Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul. The exhibition was hosted at Manara Arts & Culture in Amman by The Workshop and Fann a Porter in Dubai in collaboration with artmejo.

Participating artists included Jordanian artist Shereen Shalhoub, Syrian artist Houssam Ballan, Syrian artist Majd Kurdieh, Syrian-Cuban artist Khaled Najjad Paez and Palestinian artist Omar Najjar.

From opening reception of Fann A Porter exhibition at Manara Arts & Culture, courtesy of artmejo.

The exhibition brought to the forefront an exploration of the human condition through experimentation, imagination, and emotional sensations that ‘bridged the gap between dreams and reality’. Curator Safwan Dahoul stated:

Crucially, these young artists are all close in age and although they differ greatly in terms of subjects and styles, they are all connected to realistic expressionism and most of them are exhibiting for the first time in Jordan.

Through paintings and sculptures, artists collectively examined reality in the way they experience it, feel it, remember it and ultimately wish it to become.

Majd Kurdieh exhibition view at Manara Arts & Culture courtesy of Raed Asfour.

One of the exhibiting artists, Majd Kurdieh employed a strong storytelling narrative through painting cartoon like characters that he compliments by poetic phrases. The cast of characters that he depicts in his work are called the Fasaeen, meaning the tiny ones in Arabic. Through humor, Kurdieh presented to the crowds of people that stood in front of his work a gentle reminder to approach life’s problems and difficulties more lightly. 

Omar Najjar exhibition view at Manara Arts & Culture courtesy of artmejo.

Through the expressive use of colour and broad brushstrokes, artist Omar Najjar elevates daily experiences and scenes into the sublime. Najjar expressed to artemjo that “nothing is clearly expressed except by drawing”. He believes that the pure brain sees what exists, and what exists drives emotions.

By referring to one of his oil paintings Palm, Najjar explained that beyond the beautiful and distinctive appearance of palm trees, he feels that palms have a strong association with power that is derived from nature.

Shereen Shalhoub sculptures at Manara Arts & Culture courtesy of Raed Asfour.

Artist Shereen Shalhoub who has moved through several techniques in her practice communicated to artmejo that sculptures are one of the most expressive mediums for her. Beyond the surface of her work, Shalhoub wants to express the way ‘we morph and adapt to life’s experiences’, and hopes that viewers will look beyond the surface of her work to find inner truth.

I love working with wax, the effect of dripping brings out more depth in the work. -Shereen Shalhoub

The lively atmosphere of the exhibition opening reception was also dependent on the engagement of the attendees with the artworks and with each other. 

Ghada Kunash, founder of The Workshop, communicated to artmejo that she was particularly impressed by the crowd and their interactions with the work:

 It feels amazing to talk to people, and listen to them express their opinion. As a gallery, we focus on the recipient, place him at the center of what we do. After all, that is how you achieve the purpose of the painting.
Houssam Ballan exhibition view at Manara Arts & Culture courtesy of artmejo.

Noor Alasker expressed that as a gallery that aims to nurture the burgeoning and dynamic contemporary art scene, Fann a Porter has always been interested in exhibiting in Jordan:

Our main aim is to find a place that’s first of all engaging. We wanted to invite people to observe the art, learn and interact with it. After all, art is a culture! We felt that Manara was the best place for us to showcase the work of emerging artists from Fann a Porter because the place is very organic.

One of the attendees, Mbaddah Dallal communicated his thoughts on the exhibition:

 I loved it. It’s a beautiful place and set-up. There is an interesting combination of artists, so much hope! The colours are very ambient and expressive.

Overall, the exhibition served as a referential point to connectivity between the artists and the audiences. The collaboration between artists and institutions exemplified how art can continue to be a platform for shared experiences in the region.

Khaled Najjad Paez exhibition view at Manara Arts & Culture courtesy of artmejo.

Finally, as stated by Dina Dabbas Rifai, Director of The Corner Art Space in Amman:

The emerging art scene in the region is a dynamic library that is full of life and indicative of a younger generation that wants to shout out freedom of expression, art, beauty, and social justice or injustice.

Read more from Aseel Bokai.
Image courtesy indicated in captions.