Text by Barbara Peveling
(Ethnologist, Author and Journalist), 2020:
The painting has been hanging on my wall for a long time. It has accompanied me from Germany to Paris. A blue hand can be seen against the dark background, with a blue eye shining in the middle. The whole painting is surrounded by Arabic script. Words, written by hand, that flee across the canvas as if they had no time to linger. Again and again I am asked by people about the meaning of the painting and its symbols. The palm, the eye, the characters. Then I tell them about Abdulhamid Abdalla, a Middle Eastern artist who was born in Syria. His pictures are mostly in earth colors, as if they were painted with the sand of the Syrian desert. Each painting is like a book full of signs and shapes. The figures and symbols are intertwined, creating an idiosyncratic combination, like the singing of a very old language. As if a desert pigeon had carried this singing on her flights to Europe.
Abdulhamid Abdalla has been living in Germany for a long time. He came here before the Arab Spring. He left his country long before the Syrian war. Abdulhamid Abdalla came to Europe in 2003. He came here to paint. It was the passion for the freedom of art that drove Abdulhamid Abdalla abroad. And here he has found a new home. But above all he continued to paint. He never got tired of developing new styles.
His pictures from 2020 prove a concentration and perfection in style and subject matter. In doing so, the artist has not moved either in time or space from the place of origin and the tradition of his origin. On the contrary, his pictures not only take up the tradition of the oriental style, which is characterized by geometrically constructed patterns, ornaments and symbols, but Abdulhamid Abdalla also developed this style further. In a figurative representation, new elements of an oriental art style are developed. The resulting images are surprisingly in a straightforward historical context to the current events of our time.
Abdulhamid Abdalla practically engraves the history of our epoch on the characters in his paintings. The bodies shown are all female bodies. They are painted portraits of strangers who, in their uniqueness as pars pro toto are, representing an entire generation and nation. The female figures stand in front of a sand-colored background, often marked with unobtrusive ornaments. The painter thus evokes a conscious silence and deceleration of the atmosphere. While the background spreads silently, soundless tragedies play out on the women's bodies. The mouths and eyes are usually closed. But via the gestures, the movement of the body, the figures direct themselves to the viewer, as if they were shouting their stories and their experiences out loud from the paintings. The composition of the images focuses precisely on this scream emitted from the body in the center. It is full of ornaments, figures and symbols. A fish, a bird, the blue eye, as a traditional protective ornament from the Orient, broken, in different colors.
The eyes are only drawn when they convey a direct message to the viewer. Otherwise they disappear, literally merge with the drawings and ornaments that represent cultural memory. Women are traditionally carriers of the cultural memory of a community in its reproductive sense. The women's bodies, their clothes and their skin become the projection surface for the image. From these the fate of an entire nation can be read. Syria, as Abdulhamid Abdalla knew it, no longer exists. The country and its past are in ruins. Its population is scattered around the world. The cultural identity of the Syrian people and their historical significance are almost completely dematerialized by the dramatic course of the war. The cultural memory exists almost exclusively in human memory. This is exactly what the paintings of Abdulhamid Abdalla tell about. They speak of flight, displacement and despair. But above all, they tell of this great cultural heritage that goes back to the Phoenicians. A monument will be placed on the woman's body as the carrier of biological and social reproduction.
In addition, the artist succeeds in taking up the current gender discourse and putting it up for discussion with his paintings. What the women's bodies present is painted on their skin and clothing; it is a social attribution, the essence itself is hidden behind the representation. It can be assumed in one eye that shines openly and clearly out of the painting. Abdulhamid Abdalla's pictures are paintings from a very old tradition and at the same time their modern refraction.
The woman as the medium of history, marked by bodies that become the playing surface of the history of peoples and nations. Abdulhamid Abdalla is one of the first artists who succeeds in bringing the fate ascribed to the feminine body, to be the bearer of cultural memory, onto the canvas with just a few precise strokes. Abdulhamid Abdalla's paintings are witnesses to a peaceful revolution, whose weapons consist of brushstrokes and colors. And whose goal is to bring peace.
Further publications (selected):
Stefanie Groth (2015),
"To visualize the music of things" (Original title: "Die Musik der Dinge sichtbar machen.")
Online unter: https://www.ndr.de/ndrkultur/sendungen/freitagsforum/Abdulhamid-Abdalla-Ein-syrischer-Maler-in-Hamburg,abdalla100.html
NDR (online newspaper)
“[…]. This position of Abdalla – overcoming the times and cultures but at the same time rooted in both – expresses itself in the works which we show now for the first time here in Homburg. With marked structures and dominated by a language of shape and color, which is inspired by nature and human existence, you can always see in his works his background and the impulses of his own biography: In this way his powerful and poetic paintings are an invitation to get – apart from a calculated reality – nearer to the art of intuition.”
Mathias Beck, Gallery M. Beck, at the opening of an exhibition in Homburg a. d. Saar, Germany, July 2007.
“The artist Abdulhamid Abdalla is able to touch hearts […]. His paintings lead the viewer into an unknown world […]. To look at his art is like coming to a place you have dreamed of for a long time.”
Barbara Peveling, Ethnologist, at the opening of an exhibition in Cologne, Germany, November 2006.
(Original title: „Individuelle Symbolik“)
Hamburger Abendblatt (online newspaper) 2004
„Suddenly there are Arabic words on the canvas“
(Original title: „Opeens kwanen er Arabische woorden op het doek“)
Trouw (newspaper) 17964, p. 2, 2003
„Seven artists show their works in Holland“
Teshreen (newspaper) 17964, p. 2, 2003
„Works of Abdulhamid Abdalla“
The Cultural Supplement of Al-Thawra (newspaper) 302, p. 1, 2002
„Topics and News in Art“
Al Anwar (newspaper) 14677, 2002
„A Sculptor and four painters“
The Cultural Supplement of Al-Thawra (newspaper) 303, p. 1, 2002
“Aussehende Harmonie zwischen den gerissenen Flächen”, 2002