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YAZAN ABU SALAMEH
5 JUNE - 21 AUGUST 2021
“Cemented Sky” an exhibition by the young emerging Palestinian artist Yazan Abu Salameh that explores a geography with distant horizons and density of structures. A wall upon a wall and a concrete block over another, the melancholy of the urban environment, as a byproduct of military occupation, manifests in Abu Salameh’s artworks. They emit ambivalence of feelings, self reflection and irony combined with an overwhelming presence of concrete, not only as a form but also as a subject and metaphor.
Living in Bethlehem and encountering the Israeli Apartheid Wall, the endless concrete road blocks, watch towers, checkpoints…etc., have had an apparent effect on Abu Salameh’s artistic approach. The Israeli restriction have also pushed Palestinians to build vertically resulting in tall and dense concrete residential tower blocks, and an ever shrinking connection with nature and open spaces.
Abu Salameh titles three of his artworks: “Decedents of Men in the Sun”, in a gesture to Ghassan Kanafani’s novel “Men in the Sun”. These artworks are a come back on the theme of the novel infused of the irony of modern times. The tall Apartheid Wall blocks the road in front of the van carrying a tank that leaks blood in the street; kids play atop of an old abandoned tank and in the background the blue skies overlap with the reality of the tall Apartheid Wall; A van speeds towards an empty horizon leaving shadows behind.
Even though, the concrete prompts an inevitable feeling of a grim presence, yet reading into the artworks, there is a call by the artist for emancipation; or a suggestion of change. In “Abandoned Horse”, the artist draws on Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?” referring to resistance. In the series “Empty Uprising”, Abu Salameh deconstructs the iconic image of an Intifada child throwing a stone. He focuses on the child, the stone and a series of slogans in the background praising Palestine, the nation, and revolution. Abu Salameh also focuses on high rise buildings putting them in a “Gift Box” or burry them in the ground– in “Burried City” as a way of rejecting what has become of the Palestinian towns as a result of occupation.
Abu Salameh uses a variety of mediums (paper, cement, lego blocks, cardboard… etc) yet in almost all of his artworks there is a kind of signature: a circular line. The circle acts sometimes as a magnifying glass, and some other times, it seems to stress on a detail or point to the focal point on the canvas, from the artist perspective; a sunflower partly colored, an egg in front of a rooster, a satellite dish on a roof of a partly constructed house, the last four men in a long queue walking aimlessly, a falling part of the Apartheid Wall, a skeleton of a swimming fish…etc.
In Cemented Sky, Abu Salameh uses Lego blocks and concrete in a series of artworks that draw on the contrast in color and textures, childhood or dreams and reality. In fact, they are an extension to the theme in his other series of paperwork. They bring to the mind a hue of childhood dreams and the sense of the rough context of dreaming. As if a colorful dream of future is trying to take over the grim reality represented by concrete.