25.03.23 – 29.04.23
"Turning Notes" is an exhibition featuring the collaborative work of three artists who share a strong bond born of their passion for art. Raafat Ballan, who invited his artist friends Yara Saïd and Mazen Al Ashkar, all studied at Damascus University of fine art, have come together to create a vibrant dialogue that blends different disciplines of art, including painting, sound, and mixed media. Their collaboration produces a celebration of memories, friendship, and creativity, where color, sound, and texture are seamlessly intertwined.
Opening Saturday March 25 (17:00 – 19:00), Prinsengracht 615 H, Amsterdam
Raafat Ballen (1990, Syria) is a painter, based in Utrecht. “My art explores complex subjects, creating realistic yet strange images that capture a split second before emotion and judgment. I approach each piece without preconceptions, allowing the paint and brush to guide me. My smaller works focus on light and line, while larger canvases involve building up many layers to reveal the frailty of human life. My characters stand unaware of being seen, bursting out of my brush to convey my own impression of their story.”
Raafat Ballan's art highlights social and political urgencies, aiming to combat desensitization to images of suffering. He studied painting at Damascus University before relocating to Lebanon, Turkey, and eventually the Netherlands. His portraits often depict family settings and intersect to create a larger body of work. Ballan's style draws from both modern Western masters like Francis Bacon and Syrian diaspora artists like Marwan Kassab-Bachi.
Yara Saïd (1991, Syria) is a multidisciplinary artist, based in Amsterdam. She translates her environment through sound and explores daily encounters, identity politics, and aesthetics of representation. Yara values hospitality and is interested in documenting urban noise and researching emotional frequencies. She examines how sound can be used for both terror and liberation and offers a female perspective on global injustice.
Yara Saïd holds a Bachelor in Painting from the University of Damascus (2014 - Syria) and a Master in Fine Arts from Sandberg Instituut (2020 - NL).
On view "Child's Play", 2022 by Yara Saïd (10:10 minutes, film still)
For "Child's play" Yara draws inspiration from the book "Women Who Run With The Wolves," using it to break free from her shell and share her emotional wounds with the audience. The film takes us on a nonlinear journey, narrated through the eyes and ears of Yara herself. She explores the effects of sonic terrorism on the body and psyche, revealing the ghost-like possession that occurs in victims.
Although the threat remains invisible, it is clearly present. We can hear Saïd speaking about her relationship with her body as a woman, as the film feels like a dream that slowly turns into a nightmare. This results in a real feminist horror experience, where the prey is being hunted and the hunter is a beautiful man.
Overall, the film offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on the effects of trauma on the body and psyche, particularly for women. Yara’s vulnerability in presenting her emotional scars is a powerful reminder of the importance of self-expression and the healing that can come from it.
Mazen Al Ashkar (1989, Syria) is a multidisciplinary artist who looks into physical and conceptual structures. His research involves paying attention to the sounds and shapes they produce; voices carrying words between the supernatural and the political, local pipelines streaming global vibrations, and frictions on the highway of industrial connectivity. Processing his material using rearrangement and repurposing among other means to create work that explores otherwise imaginative engagements between its elements.
Graduated from Master Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague in 2021 and from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University in 2013.
On view during the exhibition “Limbs-أوصال” (04:40 minutes) 2022.
An engagement with materials of infrastructure; being the enabler a mode of relations that favours the concrete over the abstract - a concrete that is rooted in real abstraction.
Exploring latent sonic desires in the infrastructure, as an engagement for the interpretation and activation of rupture as a source of imagining other modes of connectivity and exchange.
The video work “Limbs-أوصال” by Mazen enters into dialogue with one of Raafat's painting.