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From January 19 to February 19, 2022

Exhibit Opening Date

January 19, 2022 

 

Curator(s)

Mohamad Hafez

Artist(s)

Mohamad Hafez

Location

The Gallery at VCUarts Qatar
Open to all – No registration needed

Leveraging his background in architecture, Syrian-American artist, Mohamad Hafez, creates photorealistic three-dimensional scenes that architecturally represent the urban fabric of the Middle East and serve as his backdrops for political and social expression.

The work combines his passion for street art and activism and seeks to promote and sustain a global awareness about the ongoing Syrian conflict. Hafez creates surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content.

 The intent of Hafez’s streetscapes is to expose the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach to appeal to a wider contemporary audience. In 2019, he was selected as one of the 40 under 40 artists in the Middle East by London’s Apollo Magazine.

Mohamad Hafez, 'Framed Nostalgia 3', 2019, Courtesy of the artist
Mohamad Hafez, 'Framed Nostalgia 3', 2019, Courtesy of the artist

Artist Statement

by Mohamad Hafez

Syrians worldwide continue to struggle to comprehend the recent aftermath of the Arab spring and its impact on their home country. What initially began as a Syrian uprising against injustice, tyranny, and marginalization of the country’s populace, has now led to the largest humanitarian crisis of the 21st Century.

As a result of my deep personal connection to my homeland and my inability to offer meaningful assistance, this calamity arouses in me a state of homesickness, hopelessness and helplessness. My work is the physical embodiment of my deep feeling of immobility and of being silenced that I share with Syrians around the world. The graphic nature of my work aims to depict the atrocities being ignored globally while drawing attention to the urgent need to keep the dialogue alive.

Leveraging my background in architecture, I create photorealistic, three-dimensional scenes that architecturally represent the urban fabric of the Middle East and serve as my backdrops for political and social expression. The work combines my passion for street art and activism and seeks to promote and sustain a global awareness about the ongoing Syrian conflict. The intent of my streetscapes is to expose the Middle East’s conflicts to the world in a modest, artistic approach and to appeal to a wider contemporary audience.

The distinctive Middle Eastern character of my work is further highlighted by the subtle incorporation of Arabic calligraphy, Islamic patterns, Qur’anic phrases, and, more recently, multimedia recordings from within the heart of Damascus, Syria. The depiction of Qur’anic phrases in my work is at the heart of the broader meaning of my work as it endeavors to kindle hope and raise spirits in the midst of very dark times for the region.

This use of live recordings of prayer calls and Qur’anic recitation recorded in the Great Mosque of Damascus during my last visit to Syria prior to the uprising, give the work a fourth dimension. Voices of children playing in the alleyway juxtaposed with the prayer calls from nearby mosques present, in each artwork, a nostalgic trip through the rich streetscapes of Damascus, encompassing life, memories and hope into a wall mural.

August 30, 2017 - New Haven, CT: Syrian-born Artist Mohamad Hafez in his studio. CREDIT: Cole Wilson for The New York Times. All copyrights reserved. Courtesy of the artist.

My work is the physical embodiment of my deep feeling of immobility and of being silenced that I share with Syrians around the world.

- Mohamad Hafez
Mohamad Hafez, 'Damascene Athan series', 2018, Courtesy of the artist
Mohamad Hafez, 'Damascene Athan series', 2018, Courtesy of the artist
Mohamad Hafez, 'Damascene Athan series', 2018, Courtesy of the artist

Biography

©Paul Specht
Mohamad Hafez

Artist and Curator

Syrian-American artist and architect Mohamad Hafez was born in Damascus. He was raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and educated in the Midwestern United States. Expressing this juxtaposition of East and West within him, Hafez’s art reflects the political turmoil in the Middle East through the compilation of found objects, paint and scrap metal. Using his architectural skills, Hafez creates surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content.

Responding to the atrocities of the Syrian war, Hafez’s recent work depicts cities besieged by the civil war to capture the magnitude of the devastation and to expose the fragility of human life. However, in contrast to the violence of war, his art imbues a subtle hopefulness through its deliberate incorporation of verses from the Holy Qur’an. At the core of Hafez’s work, the verses offer a distinct contrast between the stark pessimistic reality of destruction and the optimistic hope for a bright future. Scenes reiterate narratives from the Qur’an to affirm that, even during the darkest of times, patience is necessary for the blossoming of life and that, eventually, justice will prevail.

Hafez’s work reflects his deep interest in the cross-disciplinary exploration of street art and the realistic, yet ironic sculptural work. He purposefully infuses a stark contrast between the scenes he creates and the messages imbued in his work. Messages could be verses from the holy Qur’an, audio recordings from his homeland, or other elements of Islamic heritage reflected in the architectural typography. Qur’anic calligraphy is presented as spray painted acts of revolutionary protest or as an audio loop from a hidden source to defy the iron fist of dictatorial regimes in the region.

His artwork has recently been featured in several highly acclaimed exhibitions and profiled on National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Yorker. Hafez is the recipient of a 2018 Connecticut Arts Hero Award for his extensive and continuous body of work on issues such as the Syrian civil war, the worldwide refugee crisis, and an overall desire to counter hate speech.

He currently serves as a 2018 Yale University Silliman College Fellow, Interpreter in Residence at U-Chicago Oriental Institute, and artist-in-residence at the Keller Center of Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago.

In 2019, he was selected as one of the 40 under 40 artists in the Middle East by London’s Apollo Magazine.

Takeaways

Public Programming

Jan 19 - Feb 19, 2022

Visit the exhibition

Open to all

Feb 12, 2022 - 10 to 11 AM

Qatar Foundation Art Trail Tour: Guided Tour with The Gallery team

Feb 12, 2022 - 11 to 11 PM

Qatar Foundation Art Trail Tour: Guided Tour with The Gallery team

Audio

Join Qatar Foundation's Senior Art Specialist Layla Ibrahim Bacha in conversation with Mohamad Hafez.

Video

Re-creating the Syria of His Memories, Through Miniatures | The New Yorker Documentary

Documentary | Thmanyah

MOHAMAD HAFEZ | Art Recreating Syrian Streetscapes | Conversations, Courtesy of Afikra

Photo Gallery

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