“Freedom is when someone can express their ideas and choices without fear and embarrassment,” Syrian artist Khaled Takreti tells The Majalla about the subject of his latest exhibition, Complete Freedom, at London’s Ayyam Gallery. In the exhibition, Takreti examines the validity of this term as well as its relationship to personal and group identity, while also exploring the issues of migration and displacement.
Takreti is a Paris-based, Beirut-born Syrian artist whose work is as diverse as his background. His art combines both Western and Middle Eastern cultural views. Takreti explores the freedoms that each individual naturally possesses: freedom of creativity, knowledge and ideas. “From the start of my career until now, I have used art as an instrument of expression. Sometimes I feel as if I cannot use words to describe how I feel, so my paintings are the tool that I use to portray my emotions and thoughts,” he explains to The Majalla.
In Complete Freedom, Takreti has taken a new direction by portraying life to be less romantic than usual. He does this by maintaining a theme of irony within his drawings. Takreti’s style is also quite direct, and each piece contains just one or two colors. It is due to the Syrian crisis that colors have disappeared from his drawings, he says: “It is the only way I can express myself in this period of time.” One can sense a hint of pain and hopelessness underlying the drawings in this exhibition.
His collages, which utilize textured and smooth surfaces, are made up of a combination of images and personal photographs. When combined through a process that involves painting, cutting and drawing, they evoke questions about our understanding of the term “freedom.” The images produced are modern and somewhat uniform, and cause the viewer to question the real limitations surrounding the term “freedom” in this modern age.
The drawing that is most dear to Takreti’s heart, as he explains to The Majalla, is Ça Roule: “It is a combination of the contemporary and classic art, with a self-portrait. That represents a glimpse between the known and the unknown, a juxtaposition between these two things that exist in the world today.”
Takreti’s paintings do not belong to a time or place. It would be impossible to categorize his drawing of a childhood memory or a societal truth. As he says, “When it comes from the heart, art needs to be universal, for everyone to see.”
Takreti becomes more serious when presenting themes of immigration and cultural displacement. These are evident in two of his works. One of these, Les Enfants de la Syrie, depicts a group of children on a swing carousel at a fairground. With no sky above them and no ground below, the children appear permanently suspended in the air. They serve as a symbol for the disrupted lives of the children of war-torn Syria, most of whom are currently stuck in a state of limbo—either because they are displaced, or because it is impossible for them to leave.
The other significant work in the Ayyam exhibition, This is London?, explores multiculturalism by portraying the different identities and ethnicities that define the city. The drawing is filled with symbols that represent London, such as the London Eye, surveillance cameras and phone boxes. The work challenges our perception of freedom, in particular the freedom to choose one’s national identity and one’s home. These two works reflect Takreti’s own background, a combination of Western and Middle Eastern—a duality which he often presents in his work.
Takreti explains the importance of honesty in his work: “It is a vital tool when painting, as it is the only path to success.” The delicate drawings presented in Khaled Takreti’s exhibition represent not only a playful reflection of everyday life, but are also a personal reflection on the various social issues that exist in the world today. Takreti’s creations are simple in design, but they leave a profound and lasting impression on his audience.
“Complete Freedom” is the first UK solo exhibition by Syrian artist Khaled Takreti. It is showing at the Ayyam Gallery, London, until October 5, 2013.