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Syrian artist’s solo exhibition meditates on themes of melancholy, loss and architecture

By Tanya Raghu - Apr 04,2023 - Last updated at Apr 04,2023

Artworks by Syrian artist Ali Kaaf on display at Darat Al Funun (Photo courtesy of Darat al Funun)

AMMAN — Known as “a home for the arts and artists from the Arab world”, the Darat Al Funun foundation is currently showing the solo exhibition of Syrian artist Ali Kaaf titled “I Know the Emptiness of this House”. 

The exhibition, which opened on March 14, will run until July 27. It highlights the work of Kaaf, an Algerian-born Syrian visual artist based in Berlin who completed his artistic training across the Arab world and Europe. 

His affiliation with Darat Al Funun extends back to 1999, when he was first a student in the museum’s inaugural Summer Academy. In 2004, he had his first show there. Since then, he has shown his work in numerous solo exhibitions in Lebanon, Italy, the United States and Germany. 

As an abstract art collection, the exhibit is composed of a variety of works ranging from paper and ink drawings to photography, sound, video and installations. It is situated within the museum’s main building where visitors can read, examine and engage with the collection’s various sections. 

“He uses non-traditional materials and methods of cutting and burning paper to create a play of oppositions; between solid and void, presence and absence, action and silence, movement and stillness,” said a statement from Darat Al Funun on the exhibition. 

The pieces touch on the themes of melancholy, loss, architecture and script while drawing inspiration from the cities of Damascus, Beirut and Berlin. Throughout the works, the artist weaves in concepts such as Sufi mysticism and Islamic philosophy. 

The exhibition is curated by Rana Beiruti, an Amman-based freelance curator who also worked on the museum’s exhibition, “Re-rooting”, about environmental practices and extractive land-based practices in Jordan and Palestine, which concluded last July. 

In addition, Abdullah Al Bayyari, a cultural and academic consultant at Darat Al Funun, played a role in the development of the exhibition. His involvement has included conducting an interview with the artist during the opening event and preparing several communication materials for the museum. 

“Darat Al Funun was the first foundation in the Arab world that showcased modern art along with installations, video art and performance art and, for this reason, the foundation always encourages this type of work,” Mohammad Shaqdih, the deputy director and production director of Darat Al Funun said. “The response to the exhibition has been very positive.”

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