Syrian Kisses by Tammam Azzam

[Update: You can now read a full profile on Tammam Azzam by clicking here…]

The question of what relevance art history can have to modern everyday life is a question often raised and tousled over, but seldom adequately answered.

Indeed, the dusty academia, privileged people and abstract theories of art often serve as a buffer zone between beauty and the everyday experience- bringing us further away from understanding our visual environment than closer to it.

And it is a question that will only get more complex with the recent release of these images by Syrian artist Tammam Azzam in his war ravaged homeland. Azzam juxtaposes one of the most shocking and devastated manmade landscapes currently on the face of the earth, with one of the most beautiful, graceful images of art history; Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’. He takes a bullet hole ridden building and with the projection of Klimt’s image upon it, wraps up the architecture in the tender embraces of the lovers.

Tammam Azzam's The Kiss

Tammam Azzam’s The Kiss

It is uncertain quite what Azzam wishes to suggest through this image. It could be seen as attempting to remind us that beauty can always be found in even the most grotesque situations. We could view the work as the mark of an artist keenly aware of the historical importance of his country’s recent events; of his current surroundings as future artefacts and museum exhibits.

And yet, the purpose of the image which is perhaps most immediately affecting and touching, is this little oasis of calm and beauty  which presents a tribute to human affection and dignity in the midst of such violence. As the bullet holes prick the wall which is the lovers’ temporarily adopted skin, the embrace goes on. No amount of violence will disturb, divert or distract them.

Gustav Klimt's The Kiss

Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss

The flecked gold leaf and grainy, choppy art deco style in which Klimt painted his original are an apt and effective juxtaposition for bullet scars.

Azzam painted this piece just last Wednesday, an immediate and real time response to his country’s circumstances. The future state of the painting is entirely dependent on the fate of the city. It is so exposed to and reliant on its environment that one imagines that over the coming weeks and months we will see reflected in this make shift canvass local events; whether the building becomes secure and inhabited once more or come to bare further scars on its face.

It is rare to see an art work so embedded in real surroundings; not behind security guards, admissions tickets, and gift shops; instead Azzam presents us with art which is very much real and relevant to everyday life.

—-What are your thoughts on Azzam’s work and Syrian art? As always I’d love to hear your comments below!—