‘Syria Lisa’: When One Painting Tells The Story of a Whole People’s Struggle

Zaman al-Wasl speaks to painter of 'Syria Lisa,' a new work by Anwar Malik depicting a woman emerging from the rubble in Aleppo that has been widely circulated on social media

A painting of a woman emerging from under the rubble with her face covered in blood and dust by mixed media artist Husam Aloum has gone viral on social media.

Human rights advocate Anwar Malik, who dubbed the painting “Syria Lisa” in reference to Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic portrait, said: “The painting embodies the legend of the revolution which sparked tears and spilled blood in Syria which enviers from all over the world have piled on to.”

Aloum explained his motivation for the work, saying that the tragic events in Aleppo pushed him to express his anger and frustration about what is happening, saying that only painting gave him a means to express the pain he felt inside. When he saw the image of a woman from Aleppo emerging from underneath the rubble, Aloum said he saw within it, “a strange state that is known … in other scenes of daily pain in Syria.”

“The woman was breathing blood when the photograph was taken and she was not screaming as is [common] in situations like this but was trying to catch her breath through her mouth because blood had filled her nose,” he said, adding: “She resembled the status of someone on the verge of death who opens his mouth to inhale their last breath.”

Aloum said he felt close to a nervous breakdown when he awoke to news of the destruction of Aleppo city and saw the images of victims and the wounded. “I tried to sleep but I was unable to. I did not find a way to vent my anger and sorrow which I felt except by painting and thus came the painting, later on called ‘Syria Lisa,’ as a result of the mountain of worries, sorrow, and pain inside of me.”

The artist expressed his relief at the painting’s wide reception as it has helped him to unlock his voice in his own special way.

“The Mona Lisa is the artistic icon of the Renaissance period, and it was an expression of the life of luxury and creativity which Leonardo Da Vinci painted. Da Vinci used to play music for the model so that she would not get bored while she was painted. Our icon today is an icon of war, destruction, and ashes.”

Husam Aloum was born in 1986 in Suweida, south Syria, graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 2011 with a specialization in photography and oil painting. He has participated in many exhibitions in abroad, including Belgium, Germany and Holland.

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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