Bending Toward the Sun by Yazan Abu Salameh at Zawyeh Gallery, Dubai | Ramallah

Bending Toward The Sun Online Exhibition


30 JUNE - 30 AUGUST 2022


Plants bend toward the sun to seek light, their stems grow longer as they tackle obstacles on the way. In Bending Toward the Sun, Yazan Abu Salameh attempts to navigate barriers to freedom. 

The sun dominates Abu Salameh’s artworks and appears in the backgrounds overlooking structures of concrete. The melancholy of the urban environment and the overwhelming presence of concrete as a byproduct of military occupation overshadows his artworks. He works with ink creating an effect of sections from the separation wall and other military structures. He also presents boxes packed with congested buildings with little white windows as a representation of the densely built-up environment in the Palestinian towns, that is restricted from natural expansion. Those boxes are left partly open as if the towns desire to escape confinement. The cardboard texture and colors, build a striking connection between the sun in the sky and these boxes as well as the separation wall as if a conversation between these elements is taking place.  

Although the sun is the light source and symbolizes freedom, its scorching heat is fatal.  Abu Salameh uses bold orange colors across his works to present enormous suns. The huge orange orbs dominate his works. Some of these big circles are empty, while other circles contain figures or shapes yet the focal points of the artworks are these enormous suns. He also uses deep orange color in the backgrounds creating a sort of uncomfortable contrast with the dull greys.  In one artwork the sun looks like an enormous fiery ball rolling over the landscape towards a field of olive groves. 

Abu Salameh’s recent series of artworks is inspired by Ghassan Kanafani’s novel “Men in the Sun. The exhibition attempts to pound on the concrete walls as a legitimate cry for justice and to break out of the boxes of confinement. While Ghassan Kanafani’s “Men in the Sun” feared beating the walls of the tank and consequently suffocated, Abu Salameh paints his version of the novel, in the form of children pounding the tank from the outside. 

In a rare attempt to depict the Palestinian landscape, Abu Salameh draws a scenery of olive groves. In the background lies a huge rock almost as tall as the sun, as if it forms a barrier that stops the sunlight from reaching the fields. These fields are painted in black and white (using ink) while two suns appear in the background or perhaps a sun, and a moon, differ in size and are colored with deep orange color. Abu Salameh’s figures always look up in the sky, whether confined between walls or standing in rows at checkpoints. The artworks leave the viewer with a sense of the necessity of demolishing the barriers that stand between us and our suns.    

Words by Rana Anani