Besher Koushaji began his artistic life depicting buildings, often working
from memory to paint the houses and streets familiar to his memories of
Syria. But after he moved from his home country five years ago, the subject
of his work began to change. Today, figures and faces occur most frequently
in Koushaji’s paintings, for it is people that are now the most tangible
embodiment of Syria in the artist’s life.
Many of the buildings he once depicted are now destroyed, and those who
lived in them have been forced into rootlessness and suspension. In his
paintings they appear as silhouettes of faces and bodies, broken into
abstract, sombre blocks of colour and shape, reminiscent of something seen
through refracting lenses or malfunctioning technology.
These are not just distortions: the blocks that refract his figures are
made of complex patterns: calligraphy, the silhouettes of buildings and
places, shadows of somewhere else. The layers reflect the complexity that
distances the artist from a home that becomes further away as the years
pass. When he creates his pieces, Koushaji begins by drawing a realistic
figure and altering the image by adding blocks, lines and shapes. “My
memories are fading away, they’re not as clear as before,” he says, “It
affects the painting as I try to reconstruct the image again.”
Koushaji’s pieces are unsettling, painful meditations on loss and longing,
a clear effort to bridge a distance that’s increasingly difficult to span.
They are reflections of things lost or far away; not precise depictions of
reachable world, but mirrors that show how it is separated from the artist
by time, space and history.