Life Disrupted The Heart Is Not Where The Home Is

Toronto based artists Lina Faroussi who was born in Syria, Irit Epstein who is originally from Israel and Iranian born Elham Hazfi are holding a joint art exhibition titled “Life Disrupted” at Gallery 1313 in Toronto. Their work explores the Syrian war, the refugee crisis, the loss of home and homeland, and the geographic uncertainties that influence our lives today irrespective of where we live.

The artists express their unrest about and sensitivity to current events and crises from their unique perspectives of being both native and foreign to the conflicts they depict.

For this trio of artists the disappearance of homes, regions and entire countries, and the loss and displacement of lives of millions of people is a clarion call for the need to recalibrate, re-imagine and reconstruct our responses to these man-made humanitarian disasters that have global impacts. 

Art, of course, has always been one way of dealing with life’s harsh realities as it can provide a different environment and language for contemplating the human condition and allowing for an alternate mode of dialogue and reconciliation.

Hazfi explained that the joint project started with her signature piece titled ‘Bad Dude Land’ which was inspired by one of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant speeches.  Trump referring to Mexico ignorantly made his case for a wall between the United States and Mexico insisting that “There are bad dudes coming from there, guys, bad dudes!” According to Hazfi “the painting has all the elements that came to my mind when I started to think about the things that are left behind, hopes, expectations and the feelings that are evoked when one migrates”

For Epstein “Maps, borders, immigration, and refugees—topics pertinent to our world’s geopolitical climate—have been of interest to me, as a member of a family with a complex historical narrative, and having redefined ‘homeland’ periodically over the course of my life”

In her series of paintings, Epstein explores the idea of ‘territory’ as represented by maps, alongside images of abandoned homes, to express her perception of a collective reality conflict and man-made destruction that influences everyone.

According to Epstein “the paintings seek to portray the experience of migration, and parallel my own external and internal journeys”. Epstein employs recognizable symbolic motifs, alongside fragmented narratives such as ruined homes, embodying empty and lost spaces that underscore the need to belong somewhere both physically and emotionally.  Epstein’s work illustrates the experience of migration as echoed by Jacqueline Carey who noted that “All exiles carry a map within them that point the way homeward”.

Syrian born Faroussi’s reaction to the Syrian war is showcased in her series ‘The Obvious and the Obscure’.

Faroussi grew up surrounded by political turmoil, witnessing the imprisonment of her father, and deeply feeling the impact of watching her homeland torn apart by war.

According to Faroussi “what began as a beautiful desire for freedom in Syria, sadly became a snowballing jumble of conflicts, constituting a severe, terrifying and relentless war”.  Faroussi notes that while some refer to the multiple conflicts in Syria as “a civil war, others a sectarian war, or even the Third World War, ultimately, no matter what the label is, it is a merciless war that is leaving hope beyond the horizon”.

Faroussi poignantly quotes Bertrand Russell observation that “War does not determine who is right, only who is left.” 

Life Disrupted runs from May 25 to June 5, 2017 at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen Street West, Toronto, from 1pm to 6pm.  http://www.lifedisrupted.ca/

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Viresh Fernando is a Toronto based lawyer, chartered accountant, and itinerant writer

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