Born in Gaza in 1976 Mohamed Abusal explores the precarity and absurdity of living under siege. A painter, photographer, and video and installation artist, Abusal’s works offer a provocative and critical reflection on the trappings–both technological, political, and social–of living in Gaza today. His The Precious 20cm Stone (2016) is a regular building stone encrusted with crystals that is placed within a glass box, to highlight the extortionate costs of reconstruction and the profit involved for those who benefit from Gaza’s destruction. He is also known for his Metro in Gaza (2012) series, which proposed a network of seven metro stops that connect the different areas of the Gaza Strip. Building a metro sign and taking photographs of where the metro stops should be, Abusal invites a reflection on disconnectivity and de-development. Abusal has been widely exhibited including Al-Mamal Foundation in Jerusalem, the French Institute in Gaza, Ramallah, and Nablus, and internationally, notably in France, where he has had several solo exhibitions, in addition to the US, UK, Australia, and Dubai. In 2005 he was awarded the Charles Aspry Prize for Contemporary Art.
Samia Halaby is a leading figure in the abstraction movement in the Arab world and a preeminent scholar of Palestinian art. Best known for her large-scale abstract expressionist paintings that explode with color, elsewhere her geometric still lifes and experiments with Arabo-Islamic architectural form are an exploration of texture and spatiality. Drawing inspiration from the abstract movements of the American and Russian avant-garde, as well as the visual culture of Palestine, Halaby has said: ‘I do not paint subject matter; I do not start with words or themes. I start with my eyes. I paint the beautiful things we all see with our eyes. Born in Jerusalem in 1938, and fleeing to Lebanon following the Nakba of 1948, Halaby relocated to the US in 1951 where she received her training from American universities. She was the first full-time female associate professor at the Yale School of Art, a position she held for nearly a decade. Her work has gained critical acclaim and is held in public and private collections throughout the world, including the Guggenheim Museum of Art (New York and Abu Dhabi) and The British Museum.
Bashar Al Hroub is a Jerusalem-born artist known for his eclectic artistic practice, which includes collage on paper; sculpture; autobiographical photography; figurative paintings of haunting figures and detailed line drawings of Jerusalem and its surrounds. Palestine is central to Alhroub’s artistic exploration, presenting a diverse body of work that deals with the psychological and pathological symptoms of living under occupation. Inviting a reflection on martyrdom; migration; religiosity; and the socio-political trappings of colonization and resistance to it, Alhourb offers a refreshingly critical and unique perspective on a highly politicized and mediatized nation. His work has been widely exhibited at home, and internationally, including at biennials, art fairs and museums in Paris, London, Dubai and across North America and the United Kingdom. Having achieved widespread interest and commercial success, his work has been acquired by a number of International collections and museums including the Imperial War Museum, London; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Bengal National Gallery, Bangladesh; Birzeit University Museum collection, Palestine; Omi Art Center, New York; and Michael Abbate collection, New York; Bank of Palestine collection, Palestine; and in many other renowned private collections.
Mohammed Joha was born in 1978 in Gaza. His paintings, though playful in style and bold in colour, offer a critique of Arab and Western media bias and their (mis)representation of Arab culture. This is evidenced in his surrealist painting series, The Jasmine and Bread Revolution (2012), which depict bodies with television sets over where their head should be; army-clad clowns playing the oud and army tankers shooting butterflies. In addition to painting, his practice also includes installations, photography, and video art. In 2003, Joha graduated in Art Education from the Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, and year late he won the A.M. Qattan Foundation Young Artist of the Year Award. He completed a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2005 and has since exhibited his works in several group show in Palestine and Europe, and his solo show titled Joha-The Journey (2016)was held at Rich Mix in London.
Mohammed Al Hawajri was born in 1976 in the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza. Between 1999 and 2001, Al Hawarji participated in the Darat Al Funun Summer Academy in Amman, Jordan led by Marwan Qassab Bashi, and in 2008 he received a grant to study at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. His sculpture series, Cactus Borders (2010), which was funded by the Arab Fund for Art and Culture, is comprised of wood and nails – materials that evoke the harsh reality of living under siege. In 2014, the artist placed red carpets in various public spaces – an intervention that sought to criticize the way Gaza becomes a media spectacle during the heightened conflict. Al Hawajri is also known for superimposing scenes of Gaza’s destroyed urban environment onto iconic art historical works, most notably Goya’s The Third of May 1808. By displaying these works as photographs, Al Jawajri explores memory and the nature of images as historical documentation. His diverse artistic engagement with the city led him to establish the Eltiqa Group for Contemporary Art in Gaza, along with Dena Matar, Mohammed Al Hawajri , Raed Issa, and others.
Tayseer Barakat is one of Palestine’s preeminent artists whose practice over the past years has drawn inspiration from the ancient past, oral traditions, and cultural narratives that are intimately tied to life in Palestine. Working primarily in paint, inks, and dyes, his color palette is often limited to monochrome tones which imbue his works with a sober tone. In Barakat’s words the dark colors he uses ‘reflects the hardships of our time and our present life. I think the pressure on us makes us use dark colors. Born in 1959 in Jabalia Camp in Gaza, Barakat continues to be heavily influenced by the environment where he grew up. This is reflected in both his subject matter and the variety of media he works in including wood, metal, and glass. Barakat graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts in Alexandria, Egypt, and soon after moved to Ramallah where he has since been based, teaching and producing art. He has held ten solo exhibitions and participated in numerous international exhibitions including the Sao Paolo International Biennial (1997), the Sharjah Biennial (2003), and across Europe.
Monther Jawarbeh was born and raised in Al Arroub refugee camp, in Bethlehem. His expressive portraits of Palestinian men whose nationality is marked by the keffiyeh they wear reflect Jawarbeh’s interest in expressing a collective Palestinian identity. His works critically investigate the changing nature of resistance, which in the artists’ words ‘takes quite a different direction, that of hibernation, idleness, and depression, a condition which raises both anxiety and the prophecy of the return of the liberation project as a result of the frustrations the Palestinian nation have been going through. The psychological dimension found in his paintings is further evidenced in his bold photography portraits. Jawarbeh received his BA in Fine Arts from Al Najah University in Nablus and was a founding member of Al-Mahatta Gallery in Ramallah in 2008 and a board member of the Palestinian Artists League in 2006. He has held several solo exhibitions at cultural venues across Palestine and has participated in several group shows in Japan, Norway, and the UK.
Raed Issa was born in Al Bureij refugee camp in Gaza in 1975. Portraying scenes of tragedy and bereavement that come with living under siege, Essa’s work is highly emotive. His portraits of young children, martyrs, and wounded bodies capture the vulnerability and tragedy of living in precarity. His contribution to the contemporary art scene in Gaza has been extensive. Along with Dena Matar, Mohammed Al Hawajri, and others, Issa is a founding member of the Eltiqa Group for Contemporary Art in Gaza and is a founder of the Fine Art Programme within the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. In 2002, Issa won the A.M. Qattan Foundation Young Artist of the Year Award and has since held two solo exhibitions in Ramallah, and participated in several group exhibitions in Palestine, Jordan, Switzerland, and Australia. Despite using his art to bear witness to human loss, following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014 Issa lost his house along with his artworks. He continues to live and work in Gaza City.
Nabil Anani is one of Palestine’s most influential artists working today. Born in Latroun in 1943, Anani studied Fine Art at Alexandria University, Egypt and returned to his native Palestine where he began a successful career as an artist and educator. As a painter, ceramicist and sculptor, his contribution to the Palestinian contemporary art scene have been extensive. His first exhibition was held in Jerusalem in 1972 and in 1988 he was appointed as the head of the League of Palestinian Artists. Over two decades later he helped establish the International Academy of Art Palestine. Anani was part of the New Visions group of Palestinian artists which included Tayseer Barakat, Vera Tamari and Sliman Mansour, during which he pioneered the use of local materials including leather, henna and natural dyes. His bold use of color, unique perspectival landscape paintings and distinct figurative drawings bring Palestine’s rich visual culture to the fore. In addition to winning the first Palestinian National Prize for Visual Art in 1997, Anani has participated in group and solo exhibitions in Palestine, Jordan, the United Kingdom, Russia and North America.
Suleiman Mansour is one of Palestine’s leading contemporary artists. He is best known for his 1974 painting Camel of Hardship, which depicts the concept of summud, or steadfastness. The work shows the figure of an elderly man carrying the weight of Jerusalem (Palestine’s symbolic and cultural capital) on his back, in turn presenting the viewer with a sensitive and harrowing symbol of Palestinian suffering following the Nakba of 1948. Mansour has contributed to the development of the arts in Palestine, and during the Intifada he was part of the New Visions group of Palestinian artists which included Tayseer Barakat, Vera Tamari and Nabil Anani. Through this collective, Mansour produced several non-figurative mixed-media works that used materials derived from the Palestinian environment (such as mud, straw and other found materials) as a way to boycott Israeli art supplied. These politicized acts further serve as an affront to Israel’s colonial cartography at the same time they evoke the memory of Palestine’s colonised villages after which they are named. His work has been exhibited in group shows across the Arab-speaking region, as well as internationally, including in Japan, Russia, the US and Paris.