So much can be conveyed about a culture through its artists.
Even though there are countless of them around the region, they are rather difficult to find. This is mainly because many of them did not fully transition to the digital sphere - which is currently the best platform to promote themselves.
The other reason is that many have been living in self-imposed exiles, roaming the world in search for peace, safety, and freedom.
Even though the below list of Arab artists is a modest one, in terms of numbers, it says a lot about some of the main struggles of the Arab youth from the 1950’s until today.
1. Baseem Rayyes
Baseem Rayyes feels he was surrounded by pale eyes, lacking the glow of life and optimism. This was only until the revolutions though, after which the eyes, colors, and linear contrast were liberated, he said in an interview in 2013.
Born in 1970 in Damascus, Syria, the abstract painter is in constant search for new themes, he said in an interview with StepFeed.
The search is not limited to unconventional configurations but also extends to new ways to represent the human anatomy which can reflect the person’s essence through color and linear contrast.
He created Mr. Y in his quest to hold a dialogue, a fictitious character who resonated with his fans, who kept on asking the artist about him.
2. Lina Ogaili Sami
Looking at an abstract painting, the viewer’s conclusions are entirely based on their own background, rendering multiple interpretations that are unique to every individual.
Featuring isolated facial features with just an eye, a nose, or a mouth, rather than the full visage, artist Lina Ogaili Sami prefers not give the characters in her artwork an identity. It was this unlimited freedom that attracted her to abstract art.
Born in Iraq in 1973 to architect parents, she grew up in a house filled with artworks of recognized Iraqi artists.
“As an Iraqi Arab artist living in the West it is a challenge to have one's work stand out. I am often encouraged to abandon any hints of Middle Eastern flavor in my work. But it is crucial to remain true to one's roots and background,” she said to StepFeed.
“We have an immensely rich and diverse history. It is my nature to embrace it and allow it to define me without fear of judgment or being overlooked,” she added.
3. Omar Al Rashid
Like all children, Omar Al Rashid grew up fascinated by his mother, whether it was her movements or her traditional dress. Little did she know the influence of her endless folk tales would forever live in his paintings.
Born in Muharraq, Bahrain in 1966, Al Rashid was destined for a life of painting elegant Arabian horses and local women draped in traditional abayas and colorful fabrics.
“I am surrounded by a charming local setting which acts as a catalyst for my search of colors and concepts. I find my lost soul in them,” he once said.
4. Tammam Azzam
The image went viral with 2,000 likes and 14,000 shares within just five hours.
That was back in 2013 when Azzam was suffering from a painter’s block, which limited him to digital art.
Shortly after he arrived in Dubai in 2012, the paintings he had once started before the collapse of his hometown were no longer relevant. They now belonged, in his own view, to the dumpster where he mercilessly placed them.
For him, the transition was long and hard. But he made a comeback thanks to the support of Ayyam Gallery, another Syrian migrant in Dubai. The conflict, however, is a theme that continues to dominate Azzam's art.
5. Sadiq Toma
Living in exile for over thirty years, Sadiq Toma’s art revolves around his memories of the past.
“My aim is to retrieve the past, and not to escape to it,” he said in an interview in 2013.
Coming of age in the 1970’s, his generation of artists were heavily influenced by the early days of the Iraqi art movement in the 1930’s. Prior to leaving Baghdad, he participated in numerous exhibitions between 1974 and 1977.
Toma had to start his career from scratch when the political atmosphere in Iraq forced him to leave, like many other Iraqis at the time. Having graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1974, he faced many obstacles after he moved to London in 1978 including the language barrier and the tough competition, he told StepFeed.
Toma soon found himself a job as an illustrator at the Arabic newspaper Alsharq Alawsat. Despite the lack of time, however, he managed to create new artworks in the new modest studio he built in his backyard.
“Over time I found the ability to get inspiration from some of the features of childhood and the dream-like vision. After that, the heritage began to be embodied in some of my artworks and the painting began to change from its political concept to the concept of alienation with all its poetic and artistic meanings,” he told StepFeed.
6. Hazem Harb
Hazem Harb was born in Gaza in 1980, where he taught himself how to paint in a small studio. He left the city behind in 2004 and has been based in Dubai and Rome ever since, but the tragic events of the landlocked city continued to influence his art.
He would like his artwork to be a constant reminder of the history of Palestine “and to be remembered as a sustainable archive”, he told StepFeed.
His collections include the Archaeology Of Occupation as well as the Invisible Landscape and Concrete Futures.
7. Ebrahim Busaad
His neighborhood, Muharraq, created the surrounding that helped foster his artistic sense, with the alleys of its old quarters, the sea with the swaying dhows, the palm trees, and the people.
As an Arab artist, he would like to be remembered through "authentic, lucid art from the heart. Art that embodies people's desperation and aspirations," he told StepFeed.
Most of his artwork portrays his memories of the past 40 years he spent in Bahrain and the Gulf.