13 May 2015
An exhibition of paintings by Syrian artist Sara Shamma has opened in London, showcasing pictures of people caught up in her country’s civil war.
“World Civil War Portraits” focuses on the faces of the displaced, tortured and killed, young and old.
“The main inspiration is the war that is happening now in Syria and which is spreading everywhere from Syria to Yemen, to Egypt, to France and Copenhagen,” Shamma told Reuters.
“These paintings are about the dead people — 200,000 to now … I want to bring these dead people to life. I want you to see them, look through their eyes.”
Born in Damascus in 1975, Shamma was one of Syria’s best-known artists before the conflict began in March 2011.
She fled the country with her two children in 2012 after a car bomb exploded outside her flat. She moved to Lebanon where she produced her latest work. Her husband still lives in Syria.
One of the paintings on display features Shamma caressing a human skull, as if mothering those who have died in the war. Another “Butcher” was inspired by a female butcher Shamma met in Lebanon. The artist said the woman would often cry and get sick when she had to put down a calf, something Shamma compared to the killings in Syria.
“I think that this war (is) now reaching Europe … I think that this war, if it doesn’t stop right now, it will reach you in a way, so I don’t want to say that I’m optimistic,” she said.
“I think I’m realistic but I can’t see anything optimistic in the near future.”
The war, now in its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people, according to the United Nations. More than 1.5 million have been wounded, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.
“World Civil War Portraits”, presented by StolenSpace Gallery, runs until May 25 at London’s Old Truman Brewery.