“Cries of Gaza” resonate in rare solo show by Palestinian artist Tayseer Barakat

Tayseer Barakat - Distant Voices (2014, acrylic on canvas)

“Distant Voices” by Tayseer Barakat (2014, acrylic on canvas, 158x122cm. Used with permission of the artist)

Zawyeh, a Ramallah gallery which opened in 2013, has launched a short but significant solo exhibition by prominent Palestinian painter Tayseer Barakat.

Barakat’s work has been shown in group exhibitions around the world, gaining widespread recognition, but Distant Voices is his first solo exhibition in five years. Barakat is quoted in a statement by curator Sliman Mleahat as saying that:

Distant Voices is about our collective experiences as human beings. Many of the pieces are simple meditations on the human journey. Whether it is cavemen in the Pyrenees or young people in Gaza — they are entwined by the commonalities of life and our struggles for survival and justice.

Mleahat himself observes that:

Barakat’s work connects the audience with the recent past and that of their ancestors. The juxtaposition of ancient cave-like paintings of people and animals with modern images of war machinery makes eerie viewing. In his Life Series paintings, haunting images of war — silhouettes of helicopters and parachutes — are often surrounded by etchings of animals in flight and people scurrying for safety.

The exhibition features paintings in acrylic and watercolor and are a continuation of Barakat’s trademark style, which combines delicate use of color with fragile, often eerie figures and buildings.

2012 interview with Tayseer Barakat by Al-Hoash Gallery

Tayseer Barakat was born in Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza in 1959 and, having studied art in Alexandria, Egypt, he moved to the occupied West Bank in 1981. He remains based in Ramallah. He has shown his work in nine solo exhibitions, as well as numerous group shows around the world, including Japan, Brazil, Britain, Sweden, France and the US.

Like many Palestinians from Gaza, Barakat has been unable to visit his birthplace and extended family for many years, saying that:

I have always lived at a distant from family and friends for nearly all my life. Indeed, it has been over fifteen years since I visited or have been allowed to visit Gaza. I consider myself internally displaced — removed from my loved ones. As I look around me, I hear the distant voices and cries of Gaza the loudest.

Distant Voices shows at Zawyeh Gallery in Ramallah until Saturday, September 27.

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Sarah Irving

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Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.