First published on ArtClvb
Chalabi Art Gallery presents “Legend of Death”, the most recent exhibition of Syrian photography artist Khaled Akil and his first solo exhibition in Istanbul. Akil’s visual journey through Syria and his native Aleppo – one of the world’s earliest settlements – unfolds as a dream-like paradox in which the passing and the permanent overlap, meeting on the edges of beauty and tragedy. The mysterious-looking images are deployed as fragments that beget questions and invite the onlooker to enter a battlefield.
What one sees upon entering is not clear: A dual universe emerges in which creatures and symbols from the ancient world merge with the fragile textures of war and abandonment. As the 5000-years-old land of Syria enters one of its darkest periods and its cultural heritage is being bulldozed and turned into debris, Akil’s work is a soothing and melancholy reminder that empires have risen and fallen, conquerors come and gone, but Mesopotamia has always remained itself; a land fertile with symbols and forms.
Produced in the middle of the battle for Aleppo during the Syrian war and shown for the first time in Istanbul, the exhibition is composed of nineteen works that would be difficult to classify as photography: Akil’s treatment of original photographs, passed through countless layers of manual interventions that result in digital prints, gives the viewer the illusion that he is confronted with engravings on ancient stone that have been saved in the very last minute, before being consumed by the thirst of war.
A mixture of photography, painting and Arabic calligraphy, his works exist simultaneously in different times and places, inverting the order of the real and leaving behind only traces of pure symbols. While these symbols never completely disappear from view, they can be seen vanishing and fading, sometimes as fog, sometimes as smoke, something as dust. The element of mourning in his work surfaces charged with spiritual metaphors and night visions; objects appear suspended in timelessness.
The Istanbul-based photographer creates in the exhibition a tribute to an ageless Syria, allowing the viewer to travel throughout millennia of history with only one stare. The textures and surfaces in the works are tempting, but suddenly vanish as soon as the hand touches the printed paper; the experience is an illusion but the illusion travels faster than the eye. About one of the works, depicting a Syrian soldier, Akil remarks: “The reflection of the soldier carries a message. In war there are only victims.”
In honor of the closure of “Legend of Death” on March 15, during the last week of the exhibition, gallerist Elizabet Chalabi, REORIENT’s art writer Arie Amaya-Akkermans and the artist, will be hosting a series of private meetings with art specialists, curators and gallerists, to present Khaled Akil’s work in Istanbul’s dynamic art scene.
Source: Chalabi Art Gallery
Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi No.17