From June 26 until August 5, Ayyam Gallery Damascus will proudly present two coinciding events: "Metallica", the solo exhibition of artist Tammam Azzam and "Colored Earth…Black Chainsaw" (2010), a new installation by photographer/filmmaker Ammar al-Beik. These simultaneous events will demonstrate the breadth of young Syrian art by highlighting the cutting-edge experiments that are defining its movement. Remarkably, both artists will offer work that explores the push and pull of cityscapes, underscoring the juxtaposition of urban sprawls against natural elements and the hidden spaces that lie in between.
Born in Damascus, Syria in 1972, Ammar Al Beik's artistic career stems from unconventional roots. Although graduating from the University of Damascus with a degree in business administration, his love for photography intensified while working at a camera repair shop for ten years. He has been exhibiting his photographs since the mid 1990s, at a time when he simultaneously began an impressive career in filmmaking. In just a little over a decade he has become one of country's leading filmmakers. Equally accomplished in both genres, his photographs have been shown in venues throughout the Middle East, Europe and the US. Since joining Ayyam gallery in 2007, Al Beik has been grabbing the attention of viewers and critics alike through a number of international events.
"Colored Earth…Black Chainsaw" is his latest installation, a work that relies on striking imagery and equally powerful symbolism. An informal portrait, the piece revolves around a lone chainsaw, a subject that conjures up notions of labor, destruction and in this case renewal. For al-Beik, the object alludes to a story of an old man that works incessantly to cut down barren trees, an act that will make way for the process of regeneration and new buds. Resembling an old samurai sword, which represents honor and discipline (and to some extent craftsmanship) in Japanese culture, and an old Damascene dagger, which had similar connotations but was later used as a building tool in the early stages of urbanization in Syria, the chainsaw traverses landscapes and history. Using a similar process, he evokes the past. Al-Beik reinforces these notions by creating frames that are plastered in colored earth. This marks the shifting face of the city and the subsequent repositioning of its inhabitants as they adapt to the transformation of their surroundings.