Syrian artist Houmam Al Sayed explores the effects of oppression on the individual in the Arab world in “Pickles”, on exhibition at Beirut’s Mark Hachem gallery until June 30
As the name suggests, the exhibition takes a darkly comical or satiric angle on its theme, as represented by the squat deformed figures in his works. The figures are both ludicrous and tragic in their various predicaments, the deformation of society under dictatorship expressed literally as the figures are wrapped or confined or deformed in various ways.
One of the works is a sculpture, a squat short figure with a lobotomized brain. Another is a painting, entitled Ta7ya Masr, Viva Egypt, with the same squat figures with military boots on their heads as hats, obscuring their eyes.
As Maya Sioufi puts it these figures represent the “pressured Arab character.”
Over several large canvases with deformed characters, from shorter legs — representing the inability to move — to shorter arms — symbolizing ineptitude to put them to good use, 33 year old Houmam portrays the handicapped Arab. On one of the largest canvases, the figures have a belt wrapped around their hands, legs or mouth, symbolizing the government hindering people from seeing or speaking freely. “In Syria, we have been wrapped like that for over 50 years,” he says.Another canvas depicts military boots on the heads of the characters, inspired by an Egyptian demonstration in favor of current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during which a man placed an army boot on his son’s head. “In our region, it is either the [Muslim] Brotherhood or the military. There is no right solution; there is no democracy,” Houmam says.