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Time Out Dubai

Damascenes, Khaldoun Chichakli

Installation view at Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2015

Khaldoun Chichakli, a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University, was born in the Syrian capital in 1944. His solo show, ‘Damascenes’, is a poignant depiction of the Damascus of a bygone era. The 42 works that make up the exhibition feature drawings – both inked originals and watercolours – and woodcuts, which depict life in the city and its architecture of decades ago – much of which has now disappeared. The works are on display at Green Art Gallery until Saturday June 27. ‘Each of Chichakli’s works is a labour of love, having taken him three to six months to complete,’ explains Green Art Gallery manager Aleksei Afanasiev. ‘As a whole, they form an epistolary love letter to a city decimated by war and the onslaught of architectural progress.’

Chichakli’s vibrant works are constructed using the ‘tahsheer’ (crosshatching) method, where the artist begins by drawing fine lines and goes over them to darken an area. These black and white images are then scanned and printed before colour is applied to show various scenes at both day and night. ‘Chichakli’s use of the tahsheer method allows him to build on intensities of light, depth and shade through the tools of a pen and Chinese ink. His process of re-inscribing, carefully going over the same lines to make them darker, is almost as if he’s trying to bring the past back into being through this repetitive gesture – even the people and buildings remain immobilised as if frozen in time and in memory,’ says Afanasiev.

‘Damascenes’ is an expression of Chichakli’s experiences and encounters, from rural and everyday life to souk vendors and abstract themes such as love, fear and exile. For a view of the Syrian capital of old, this exhibition is well worth investing your time in.

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