Syrian artist’s Hampstead exhibition explores nation in conflict

As Syria finds itself embroiled in a violent conflict, a Syrian artist has chosen Hampstead as the venue for an exhibition which explores a range of social, political and religious issues facing his homeland.

Khaled Akil, 26, who lives in Aleppo, Syria, found out about Lahd Gallery, in Heath Street, in an art magazine after hearing it praised by a friend and contacted the gallery to ask for an opportunity to exhibit his work.

The gallery – recognising the interest in his work for a Western audience – was happy to oblige.

Mr Akil’s pieces are made up of a hybrid of photography and painting that produce a digital image made up of layers of ancient religious Arabic scripts and symbols combined with photography,

“My work could be described as aggressive to some recipients because of my photos,” he told the Ham&High.

“I prefer to point directly to the components of our society that have the deepest and most dangerous effects, which by their turn can affect the whole region.”

The repression that artists are subjected to in Syria has inspired them to push the boundaries of their art, the artist believes.

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“The repression we live drives us to the maximum to break all constraints,” he said.

“The cultural and ethical revolution is born from grief and suffering.”

Mr Akil is fiercely proud of his country and hopes for a peaceful resolution to the current turmoil in Syria.

“I dream of a united Syria, pure from all forms of dictatorship, extremism, sectarian and ethnic conflicts, where the challenge between the majority and the minority is based on political ideology, not race or religion,” he said.

“I believe in Syria, a secular pluralist country where democracy and freedom rule.”

The artist, who has a degree in law and political sciences, hopes his work will provide an honest picture of Syria.

“What I am working on is to combine my studies with my artistic mission to provide the whole world with an honest picture of reality,” he said.

The exhibition Khaled Akil: The Unmentioned is on display until March 7.