Kais Salmanâ€™s Untitled work, in acrylic on canvas.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, is presenting Fables in the Unknown, consisting of the most recent body of work of one of Syriaâ€™s foremost expressionist painters, Kais Salman (Sept. 19 â€“ Nov. 1).
A fable, as the gallery notes, is a literary genre, a succinct fictional story that features animals and legendary creatures and leads to a particular â€˜moralâ€™ lesson. In his work, Salman does the visual equivalent, a visual narrative, creating his own imaginary world in which his characters represent the mass.
He illustrates civilisationâ€™s pros and cons and the chaos of the human condition. There is a difference between reading and seeing an idea; a writer dictates his concept.
Visually, the artist gives one tools to glimpse at a picture, leaving it open-ended. Thereâ€™s no solution, no answer; itâ€™s a chance to dream. Salman creates emotions, taking you to a different world and a different universe. This body of work is merely a continuation of his previous work, in which he plays with technique, stepping away from flatness and playing with impasto. The transition is also a significant part of the storytelling and plot. Salman says he does not visualise the composition before working on a canvas: the painting starts in abstraction, sometimes in layers of dark tones, and through it, he finds forms and highlights those with brightness.
He attempts to create composition through light and find meaning in the dark. He plays with size, alternating big and small limbs, creating depth, making the eye jump through background and foreground, and the spaces in between. Taking the comparison to fables even further, the artist focuses on sarcasm. Placing evil alongside good, creating groups and multiple narratives at once, he creates a specific scenography.
The dark humour is meant to enlighten reality and envisions a better place.The closest layer of paint is where the truth lies, where the plot thickens.The chaos gives one options, the freedom to read what he desires, something that touches every one of us. Each painting has a specific thought process and narrative, placing some type of comedic character and main character. Salmanâ€™s paintings are a representation of emotions and sentiments. Charges of positive and negative thoughts, feelings and energy, are projected onto the canvas speedily. He believes each person has evil and kind traits. He removes the wickedness and only shows the positive when creating his animated characters.
The focus is on eyes and hands; he explains that they are the source of expression in all of us. The caricatures and sweet monsters - they bring smiles and positive energy, besides unveiling the artistâ€™s knowing naivete.
Since embarking on a different path than that of his contemporaries and predecessors, who were influenced by Soviet art, Salmanâ€™s work has been described as monochromatic, abstract expressionism. He uses satire to subvert the normalisation of greed, narcissism, and ideological extremism which is perhaps rapidly defining our era.
Since the early 2000s, he has sought to reflect the psychological violence that occurs when excess becomes rationalised and accepted by societies. Political corruption, terrorism, consumerism, cosmetic surgery, religious fanaticism, imperialism, and the voyeurism of the digital age, have all served as topics of his carnivalesque compositions.
He has contributed to a decades-long artistic tradition that continues to serve as a powerful outlet for social commentary. A consummate formalist, he is recognised as one of the Arab worldâ€™s most accomplished painters.
Seeking to confront and exorcise sociocultural manifestations of depravity, Salman unearths a world of ugliness and abjection through intentionally hyperbolised imagery, accentuated by punches of colour and aestheticised forms.
Born in Tartous in 1976, he lives and works in Syria. He received a Bachelor of Art from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus, in 2002, where he trained with leading painters such as Safwan Dahoul. Salmanâ€™s paintings are housed in collections in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. He has been featured in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, among other international publications, and was listed for a second time in Arabian Business 100 Most Powerful Arabs Under 40 in 2016.
Like other contemporary Syrian artists, Salman has benefited from his countryâ€™s increasing contact and popularity on the international art market, including the art auction houses of Dubai, with his paintings increasing six-fold in value from 2006 to 2010, and now selling for as much as 17,500 euros. Featured in countless group exhibitions in Syria and the Arab world, including the 4th Annual Youth exhibition in Damascus where he took first prize and the inaugural exhibition of the Damascus Museum of Modern Art, Salman has been a regular fixture of high-profile shows.
Recently he has become essential to Ayyamâ€™s lineup, participating in such standout events as its â€œShabab Uprising,â€ â€œYoung Collectors Auction (I and II)â€ and â€œDamascus Calling,â€ an exhibition held at The Park Avenue Armory in New York City in 2008. A favourite among collectors, he is represented by the Ayyam Gallery.
Solo and group exhibitions include Ayyam Gallery Beirut (2018, 2015, 2014, 2012); Ayyam Gallery Al Quoz, Dubai (2017, 2014, 2011, 2010); Alexandria Biennale (2014); Ayyam Gallery DIFC, Dubai (2014, 2010); Damascus Museum of Modern Art (2009); The Park Avenue Armory, New York (2008) and Carthage Festival for Coast Mediterranean Sea Artists, Tunisia (2005). Ayyam Gallery is a leading arts organisation that manages the careers of diverse established and emerging artists.