Fresh views of the Palestinian landscape abound at Ramallah Art Fair

The city's second annual art fair runs until February 15

Fouad Agbaria's colourful and distinctive paintings of the Palestinian landscape are on view at the Ramallah Art Fair. Photo: Ramallah Art Fair
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It’s a split-second view of the sea: the waves look like hurried brushstrokes, the crest and sand blur into each other. But the truth behind the images is not as tranquil as nature might have you believe.

In these scenes, Jerusalem-born artist Ahed Izhiman is recapturing the sights that Palestinian prisoners see when they are being transported between jail cells, courts or clinics.

Izhiman's piece, part of his photo series Bosta, is on show at Ramallah Art Fair, which is now in its final week. The fair's second annual event is taking place at Zawyeh Gallery in the city, showcasing more than 150 artworks by 33 artists.

Bosta is also the name of the military transport vehicle used by Israeli occupation forces to move detainees. Reports reveal stories of prisoners cuffed in the backs of these vans, enduring days-long journeys on hard metal chairs. There is little light, save from small openings where passengers can catch a glimpse of the outside world.

For his work, Izhiman has retraced the bosta’s routes, photographing what Palestinian prisoners would have seen from inside.

Works on landscapes are repeated throughout the fair. In contrast to Izhiman’s deceptively serene views, the paintings by Nabil Anani appear more aspirational. Depicting the vast fields and trees of Ramallah in dreamy colours of purple, blue, pink and coral, the artist imagines a more utopic view of Palestine.

Meanwhile, Ikram Awidat’s lush embroideries, such as From Our Hills, recall the natural beauty of the occupied Golan Heights with vibrant flora and rolling hills. The artist demonstrates how landscape and depictions of it contain many stories, and how these can be used to weave narratives or undo them.

Alaa Albaba takes on urban textures, particularly of Al Amari Camp in Ramallah as it sits next to residential and commercial areas. His series The Camp features a rooftop view of dense areas that stretch to the horizon, with the artist infusing a sense of the surreal by painting kaleidoscopic skies.

Contrasts between styles and generations can be seen throughout the art on show. For example, the work of both Rafat Asad and Reem Masri is not rooted in realism, but the former’s evocative paintings of the Palestinian landscape appear more as dream scenes compared to the latter’s fantastical collages.

Asad, who was born in 1974 in Nablus, started his career as an abstract painter before turning to landscape. His palette is more refined and restrained, while Masri, born in Jerusalem in 1991, deftly blends deep and dark tones to create landscape collages of places such as Jaffa, Gaza and Jerusalem that are rich and embroidery-like.

Many other artists use the natural landscape or elements of it in their works, including Fouad Agbaria's distinctive semi-pointillist paintings of trees and farmland, Easam Darawashi’s tender paintings of flora and Bashar Alhroub’s memorable silkscreens Holy Tree, emphasising the olive tree as a symbol for Palestine.

Outside of landscape, Ramallah Art Fair also features abstract works by Cem Polat, Mohamed Abusal, Benji Boyadgian, Ahmad Canaan and Akram Al Halabi. The works of Abed Abdi, Sliman Mansour, Tayseer Barakat, Asad Azi, Ayma Essa, Khaled Haroun and Nidal Morra are also on view.

Ramallah Art Fair runs until February 15 at Zawyeh Gallery, Ramallah. More information is available at zawyeh.net

Updated: February 06, 2022, 11:44 AM