“Displaced 3” by Syrian artist Lina Malki, currently on display at gallery 2.                                 (COURTESY OF J. KATHLEEN THOMPSON)

“Displaced 3” by Syrian artist Lina Malki, currently on display at gallery 2. (COURTESY OF J. KATHLEEN THOMPSON)

Exploring art behind the lines of war at gallery 2

gallery 2’s new exhibit explores Syrian art, on until July 8.

By J. Kathleen Thompson

Lina Malki is a Syrian artist, age 26, living in Damascus, Syria. She tells me via e-mail that creating art whilst in a country at war is more necessary than ever, intensifying an artist’s role as a catalyst of truth.

Two strong collectives of Syrian artists in Syria and France — Cyrrus Gallery and Syria Art — share that sentiment and ensure that her work is both protected and promoted to the world at large.

Amazingly, Malki’s work, and that of 18 of her colleagues, is on display at gallery 2 here in Grand Forks.

A ‘gift’ of curator Ted Fogg, and curator of the Penticton Art Gallery, Paul Crawford, Malki’s work is part of a touring show which made its Canadian debut one year ago in Penticton, B.C. In a curator’s talk at the gallery 2 on June 14, Crawford shared the daring, innovative, and above all, profoundly human story behind the genesis and acquisition of this extraordinary show.

The inspiration for this exhibit, and one Crawford hopes will be engendered by it, is the power of human connection.

Remembering the profound effect that establishing international connections with people via pen pals had on his life, and moved by the crisis affecting the Syrian people, Crawford simply reached out to a Syrian artist through his online gallery.

A correspondence sprung up between Crawford and Humam Alsalim, and through Facebook and Skype, Crawford was introduced to a variety of artists working in Syria and the European diaspora today.

Most were recent alumni of the fine arts department of the University of Damascus (considered the ‘hotbed’ of emerging artists in the Middle East), and all were keen to have their work disseminated to a wider audience, not for commercial reasons but for artistic and cultural ones.

As one could well imagine, getting the work out of Syria and into Canada required a whole lot of creative thinking. Commercial couriers were no longer operating in Syria so one had to rely on what could be sourced on the ‘the black market’.

With $5,000 wired to cover the costs, and no guarantee that the canvasses would arrive in Canada, let alone in time, the whole process became, in Crawford’s words, a ‘feat of trust.’

The last and largest shipment of canvasses arrived the day before the advertised opening of the exhibit in Penticton, with just enough time to mount, frame and display them before the doors opened. The exhibit proved to be powerfully resonant with residents in the Okanagan, dovetailing ramped-up media coverage about the crisis in Syria that had been sparked by the image of little Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up onto a Turkish beach.

Leaving Penticton and moving onward to Vancouver Island and then to Whitehorse, Yukon, the exhibit was to garner the same intensity of interest.

Embracing the experimental ethos of contemporary art, many of the works in the exhibit address the social, political and religious issues ‘behind the lines’ of a civilization ruptured by a devastating civil war.

A series of pieces entitled Cultural Beheadings starkly illuminate the nihilistic consequences (such as the wide-scale destruction and looting of ancient city of Palmyra, the treasured Pearl of the Desert) of a country torn by conflict.

In a series entitled Displaced Lina Malki powerfully depicts, by using a mirage of colours and light and forms, the suspension of time and continuity in lives immobilized by nation-wide turmoil. Perhaps the most plaintive of all is Aya Al Medani’s voicing of a child’s perspective when normality and the future are put on hold. In What War Hides Behind It, all that war brings with it — misery, poverty, illness, hate, ignorance, sorrow, destruction, anger, revenge, etc. — truly brings into focus the extent to which hostility poisons a child’s world.

Coined by Crawford as an exhibition not for the faint of heart, for those who venture to view it, you will nonetheless find it uplifting by the sheer edifice of spirit that has created and brought this potent documentation of time and place to our community.

To further the conversations between viewers and artists, contact information — in the form of websites, facebook contacts, or emails — is provided for each artist.

We have until July 8 to make the most of this testament to creativity and courage before it continues its North American tour. gallery 2 begins its summer hours July 1, opening Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Giant prize-winning pumpkins and squash are standard fare at the Pass Creek Fall Fair. Photo: Betsy Kline
Pass Creek Fall Fair cancelled for 2021

Event cancelled for second time

Police are advising of a scam actively happening in the Kootenay Boundary, one that involves a person trying to sell the victim gold for cash. Problem is, the gold is fake. Photo: Matt Flores on Unsplash
Fake gold scam re-surfaces in the Kootenay Boundary

Victims are approached in high-traffic areas by someone claiming to need emergency cash

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Interior Health announces 89 cases of COVID-19 in the region

Currently, there are 900 active cases in the region

Jake the service dog is trained to give calming hugs to his caretaker and handler, Rae-Lynee Dicks, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Jake and Rae-Lynne: The story of a Grand Forks woman and her service dog

Jake is on his way to completing his training, but it’s been difficult to socialize him in the pandemic

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Most Read