It’s an image we’re used to seeing: never-ending lines of displaced civilians snaking away from borders or queueing for food in refugee camps. It’s everywhere we look, from the news to social media.
What we aren’t used to seeing, though, are the population’s one percent in the same setting. But that’s exactly what Brussels-based Syrian painter Abdalla Al Omari has done in his latest exhibition, The Vulnerability Series, on show at Ayyam Gallery in DIFC, whether it be a painting of Bashar al-Assad emerging from stormy Mediterranean waters, or a dishevelled Donald Trump carrying his only possessions on his back.
Driven by his own experiences of displacement and his anger at the deteriorating situation in his home country, Al Omari wanted to explore the “paradoxical nature of empathy”. But his work quickly went from being an outlet for his anger to a desire to disarm his figures and place them outside their positions of power, “not to serve me and my pain, but to give those leaders back their humanity and [to show] what the power of vulnerability can achieve”, he says.
It’s a strong message about how human we all are, and it just reinforces how easily any of these figures could have been born into different circumstances.
The identity of the subjects complicates your reactions to them. It forces you to question your feelings of them by stripping them of any constructed strength or charisma. Revealing the vulnerable human underneath.
Free. Until Ju; 06. Open hours during Ramadan: Sun-Thu 11am-4pm; after Ramadan: Sun-Thu 10am-6pm. Ayyam Gallery, Alserkal Avenue Unit B12, Al Quoz (04 439 2395).