Modern Robin Hood (profile of painter Nihad al-Turk)

When meeting Syrian painter Nihad al-Turk, you are faced with a restless man, a modern Robin Hood, as he likes to call himself, who is burdened by poverty, social and political injustice yet unable to restore order.

Born to a poor family in Aleppo in 1972, life didn’t go easy on Al-Turk. Finishing only the primary school, having no money and experiencing a series of debacles in his personal life however made Al-Turk all the more determined to achieve his dream and follow the footsteps of painters like Picasso and Da-Vinci, his ideal at the time.

“My works are a reflection of me,” Al Turk tells me. His paintings however depict a deformed, chained character, heavy with disappointment and sorrow. In fact, Al-Turk believes that every man is deformed from the inside and that life is about improving our deformed selves through our lives by love.

As Al-Turk finds life unjust and people only further deform and destroy it, he resorted to the world of animals that he sees as more righteous and innocent. He created a mythical creature that unites the contemporary man, which is deformed, bewildered and disappointed in life and the animals.

“It’s people who deform life and worse they try to chain animals and organize their daily lives and meals according to their taste depriving them from their primitivism.” He says.

A night in his studio’s garden in Dummar marked a turning point in Al-Turks career. Awakened by a little mouse, Al-Turk felt his deep loneliness. By dawn, he depicted himself as a lonely deformed flower vase and painted the mouse as a deformed animal with seven legs. Since then the little animal has been present in all his paintings and has become a trademark of Al-Turks latest works.

Though moved to still life, the sense of alienation and oppression never parted Al-Turk’s works; avoiding the traditional still life stereotype, he deforms every element in his paintings and adds a living creature to each one.

“I can’t imagine painting a still life without life in it. It’s simply too rigid and lifeless that way.”

Despite their depressive content, Al-Turk’s paintings bear a lot of strength and love. His intensive use of red colors adds strength and vivacity to the works. Far from the traditional interpretation of red as the color of love and revolution, Al-Turk sees it as a spark, action and a symbol of his intense love for life; for though he never lived on easy street, Al-Turk is very ardent and optimistic about his future. He has already won several prizes, among them the golden prize in the 5th Latakia Biennale in 2003 and his paintings has been sold in international auction houses.

Nevertheless, Al Turk believes his art will remain heavy with the poverty, political and social injustice that governs the world. „As long as there’s no justice in life, tension will never leave my life and therefor my paintings,” He says.

This article was published in the artist’s catalog.

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