Family Portrait at Ayyam Gallery

Mohannad Orabi’s Ayyam Gallery show presents a series of haunting images in the style of family portraits that depict a dark truth

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, but in the case of Syrian artist Mohannad Orabi it speaks volumes.

His latest exhibition Family Portrait, which is on display at Ayyam Gallery until Friday October 30, presents a set of ominous images in the style of family photographs, but that hint at a much darker truth – life for families affected by war. Gone are the happy, smiling faces you’d expect to see in family pictures. Instead the artist paints black and white faces with sullen glares, through which he seeks to record a side of conflict that lies beyond political resolution.

“These psychological portraits capture the fatigue and uncertainty experienced by millions,” says Maymanah Farhat, director of art at Ayyam Gallery. “They remind viewers that the future of countries such as Syria now rests in the hands of displaced youth; children shaped by the trauma of war.”
Here, Orabi talks us through some key pieces.

Inspiration for each of the artist’s paintings is drawn from his memories of going to take photographs at a studio with his family. In some works, we see a hint of colour, such as the bright red hue of a single rose in a child’s hand. “I’m still hopeful, regardless of our dark reality; these colours are for a better future.”

This composition shows a mother and her four children huddled, yet poised. “We live in a very complicated situation in the Middle East. The grey background represents our dull reality and the white border along each portrait separates the figures of my memory from the state of my reality.”

Here we see a small boy clutching a teddy bear, hinting at the child’s state of anxiety. Although painted with Orabi’s stylised approach to figuration, the boy’s face is rendered with painstaking detail. “It reflects the struggles of the Syrian people today. It’s a message
to all viewers to put themselves in their position.”

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