Jaber Al Azmeh: Border-lines / Green Art Gallery, to 2 Jul 2016


Jaber Al Azmeh’s fifth solo at Green Art Gallery continues the artist’s fiercely sharp view of the world in general and the Middle East in particular.

There’s a bleak, almost Orwellian feel to these photographs, with a screaming silence in most of them – barren deserts with images of capitalist, consumerist systems. The huge rusting billboard has nothing to say. Rows of identical houses may be full of people and things, but they’re empty of emotion and aspiration. A line of buses, static and empty, say something about the lack of possibilities – those buses are going nowhere – and maybe hint at the lives of the workers who typically fill those buses.

There are many lines in this show. Then there are the escape routes: tyre tracks in the sand, but running in different directions and rendered in different sizes of image. And there are also images of restriction and maybe war – surveillance cameras, oil barrels, border patrols, tunnels …

And in the images there’s usually a horizon, maybe a suggestion of something better beyond or maybe the restrictive border that represents the limits of what we can attain.

Al Azmeh was born in Damascus, and his previous exhibitions have been explicitly about the conflict in his country. These images extend the imagery to a broader canvas; they speak of boundaries and restriction more generally.

But at least there’s some hope in the last few works in the exhibition, described aptly in the catalogue as “the purgatorial vastness of the desert”. The lines are softer and curved, the views are longer and less restricted. Is this Al Azmeh’s escape route?

More here.

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