Freedom: The Most Important Form of Art

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1972

It is easy to discover some artists and movements that are famous and have had an impact in the field of art with their distinctiveness. Artists like Monet, Turner and Cézanne. People do that all the time. They familiarise themselves with important and acknowledged movements like Romanticism, Realism and Expressionism, but often neglect a momentous sparkle of art behind the great movement of revolutionary art.

By no means am I implying that the known movements have not altered the course of history. Of course they did, but in a different context. Today’s emerging revolutionary art, however, has something else to offer to the international community. Having all these in my subconscious, I accidentally read online about an imperative Syrian artist, Tammam Azzam.

Tammam Azzam

Few months back, before the outbreak of the media that focused on the immigration issue of many Syrian refugees (which, by the way, has been a pressing issue for many years now), a picture of a war torn building was all over the media. Tammam Azzam declared his own revolution by enlisting one of the most famous mainstream kisses in Western art as an act of protest against the war in Syria. As a matter of fact, it echoes the Berlin Wall graffiti picture of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev back in 1979, who were practising the fraternal socialist kiss. Azzam has created rebellious and dissenting art by photoshopping Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss on a destroyed savaged Syrian building.

The impact? Exceptional! Azzam made art out of his own reflections of contemporary events by exploring the destructions of war by men. The Kiss delivers a romantic, idealistic image of the purity of love. Inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, that a kiss is made for the whole world, it explicitly states the universality of two people connecting through a kiss and the strong feeling of love in a simple painting.

Such an image on a Syrian bombed wall delivers mixed feelings to the audience. Certainly, there is a consistent element of critique in Azzam’s approach to Klimt’s masterpiece. As I perceive this, I can extract a dichotomy between Western arts against the non-Western conceptualisation. There is that resilient attitude which is open to interpretation. The existing distinction between the western world and “other”- the alien culture- which is non-westernised has always been around. Yet, the main priority of a contemporary artist is that art should connect and not dichotomize. Azzam’s point, therefore, is well established. Apart from that, there is an important subtext in using a Western masterpiece. In a delicate way, Azzam’s main emphasis focuses on Klimt’s theme of universality and successfully illustrates, in his photoshopped work, the idea that we are all citizens of the same world.

Make art not war

We have seen how empathy restricts its boundaries only to the first world. I cannot help but wonder if the main message of Azzam’s piece is that violence should be dismantled, whoever the perpetrator might be. Some would say that art is there to ease the mind, however revolutionary art seeks something else – to unease the mind in an emblematic way; to make the audience consider who’s in and who’s out.

 

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Vasileia Anaxagorou
My name is Vasileia Markatzi Anaxagorou. I have graduated from the Politics and International Relations Department from the University of Nottingham, UK. Following up my undergraduate ​studies, I have obtained a postgraduate degree in History at Goldsmiths, University of London. I have worked as a visual artist in Cyprus for the past 6 years and decided to extend my knowledge on the field by following up my studies in Fine Art. Living in London, I aspire to become a London-based artist and art critic in the field of art. My background knowledge in the field of politics and history, have triggered my thirst to examine how sociopolitical issues influence art and culture, and thus my writing will focus mostly on that.

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