Fadi Yazigi (Syria, b. 1966)
One of the Arab world's most fascinating contemporary artists, Fadi Yazigi first began drawing as a child and has never looked back.
Born in Syria, Yazigi studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University, gaining a bachelor’s degree in fine arts specialising in sculpture in 1988. He still lives in Damascus today with his family and works fulltime at his studio in the old city. Producing a range of works from painting to sculpture to reliefs that all mirror each other in terms of subject matter and, for the most part, focus on everyday life in Syria. Yazigi regularly casts his sculptures in bronze, and they often depict people as underdeveloped creatures or as half-human beasts. As a figurative painter, Yazigi’s work revolves around people and human emotions with a nostalgic sensibility towards the individuals that he encounters. A strong facet of his work is experimenting with new materials and techniques, allowing him to continuously increase the range of his oeuvre.
Yazigi’s art is housed in numerous public collections including The British Museum (London), The Delfina Foundation (London), Kaleemat Foundation (Istanbul), A.M. Qattan Foundation (London) and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (UAE), as well as private collections throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the USA. In 2007, Yazigi was the Delfina Foundation artist-in-residence, Middle East representative (London); his lecture at The National Gallery, Poussin's Sacraments - Rites of Passage and Continuing Creativity, was delivered in the same year.
Solo exhibitions include Art Paris Art Fair (Paris 2016), Yallay Art Gallery (Hong Kong 2015), The City Hall (Thessaloniki, Greece 2015), Galerie Tanit (Beirut 2015), Darat Al Funun (Kuwait 2014), The Mosaic Rooms (London 2011), Ayyam Gallery (Damascus 2009) and Al Bareh Art Gallery (Bahrain 2006). Collective exhibitions include Galeries de Verre “L’Art en Marche” (Bordeaux 2015), Institut des Cultures d’Islam (Paris 2014), Meem Gallery (Dubai 2013), BIEL Center “Syrian Art” (Beirut 2013), Athr Gallery (Jeddah 2013), Europe Art Expo (Geneva 2006) and Dead Horse Gallery (Cleveland 2000). He has also participated in a number of international events and art fairs including; Art Paris, Abu-Dhabi Art, Art Dubai, Art Palm Beach, Beirut Art Fair and Sharjah Biennale.
When the young Fadi Yazigi took to sketching with a pencil in the classroom, rather than joining in spelling and grammar lessons, it was perhaps a sign of things to come.
“Art was pretty much the only thing I liked at school,” he acknowledges. “Nothing else really excited me. Art gave me a chance to prove myself in something.”
Those early drawings marked the beginning of a journey for a young talent who would go on to become one of the region’s most fascinating, figurative artists working today.
Born in Syria, Yazigi studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University, gaining a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts, while specialising in sculpture. Since graduating in 1988, he has continued to live in Damascus with his family and works fulltime at his studio, which is located in the old city.
The human form and faces, in particular, lie at the heart of Yazigi’s instantly recognisable paintings, ceramic relief carvings and sculptures, with people often depicted as underdeveloped creatures or half-human beasts.
“The Babylonians were depicting the human form 6000 years ago and I, along with others, am simply continuing what they began,” he notes. “I believe it represents the most important thing on this earth.”
While the war and regional unrest are inevitably key influences, Yazigi also draws on aspects of everyday life in his art, from the mundane to the humorous. “I aim to capture people’s emotions and expressions, be it happiness or sadness,” he says.
The discovery of clay marked a milestone in Yazigi’s development as a multimedia artist. “I found clay to be warm, passionate and powerful, capable of capturing my ideas and expressing what was in my heart,” he says. “It was the medium I found best suited to transferring what was in my head to my hand.” From experimenting on slabs of clay, Yazigi quickly moved to creating threedimensional pieces. He is also known for firing first-relief sculptures, saying the process allows him to maintain continuity and ensure honesty in his work. “I don’t want to hide the feelings with a glaze, so I keep it as it is,” he explains. “I also like the way that the light comes through and highlights the texture of the clay. The entire process helps with the next step, making me feel enthusiastic.” The war has had a major impact on Yazigi’s work on many levels, from dampening his motivation early on to the purely practical. He admits to being “confused and depressed” initially, but then, acceptance, reality and the need to continue working took over. “I decided I had to get on with my life, for my own sake and also for my children, and that included working,” he says.
Yazigi’s thoughts and findings on life in Syria today have inspired many of his new pieces. Some of his mixed-media works on paper juxtapose still life with figures to reaffirm the message that the artist is still alive and still has a life, irrespective of what’s happening in the world he inhabits. The new body of work also includes meticulous and poignant ink drawings of paper kites carrying children and letters written by them expressing their dreams for the future high in the sky, closer to God. Other pieces with a message include a relief on clay of a happy family scene with a menacing threat, or ‘monster’ lurking in the middle. From a practical point of view, the war has brought additional, far-reaching challenges, ranging from a shortage of local clay to the fact that Syria no longer has an operating foundry. However, Yazigi points to the positives, which include Syria’s wonderful light and the fact that above all, the country is still his home. “Maybe there are no longer any birds here, but I’m still trying to capture a mood,” he says. “I can’t stop working; art is not only part of my survival – it’s also a way of looking for a solution.”
More info: http://www.fadiyazigi.com
Artists of the Gallery
Lamia Maria Abillama
John M Armleder
Christian Carle Catafago
Zena el Khalil
SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI
Catharina van Eetvelde