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19 Apr 2021, 21:19 HRS IST
  • PTI
    • Features
  • When war is the canvas, and world leaders are refugees
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  • Rajan Sharma New Delhi, June6 (PTI)
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    nbsp;War can inverse many realities.

    For Syrian artist Abdalla Al Omari, that's the leitmotif of not just his life but also his art.

    Five years ago, when Syria was on the brink of civil war, Omari left his homeland to take refuge in an asylum in Brussels. Driven by the anguish of displacement, he turned to his art to make an incisive political statement, portraying some of the world's most powerful leaders as refugees.

    The artist's imagination found shape in the solo exhibition titled "The Vulnerability Series", featuring fictionalised portraits of leaders like US President Donald Trump and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in moments of despair.

    It was an inversion of propaganda art, a paradox that conversely underscored the truth of war and bloodshed.

    quot;As the series developed, I started empathising with these characters that we are used to seeing as ultimately powerful. In actual, these leaders show no vulnerability and as a result it is difficult to connect to these people on a human level," says the 31-year-old.

    In a video clipping sent to PTI, the Brussels-based artist says he was intrigued by the romantic idea of vulnerability and the impact it could generate.

    As he developed the series, eventually arriving at the 'paradoxical nature' of empathy, his aim shifted from expressing anger to the more vivid desire to disarm his figures, to picture them outside of their positions of power.

    quot;I wanted to take away their power, not to serve my own pain but to give back those leaders the humanity and to the audience to see the work and decide what the power of vulnerability can achieve.

    quot;It gives us the expression that moments of absolute powerlessness can also give you... absolute powers when you find people empathise with your personal story," he says.

    In his work, Omari tends to eliminate all suggestions of strength, charisma and righteousness. Setting aside the hallmarks of autocratic visuals, he depicts them as vulnerable civilians.

    In "The Mediterranean", for instance, Omari paints Bashar al-Assad as a distraught refugee partially submerged in water, surrounded by a ravaging sea and an overcast sky.

    Similarly, in "Donald", the artist depicts the US president in a t-shirt along with a backpack and carrying a girl child in his arms. In the portrait, Trump is holding a picture with a vivid expression of des

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