Art Life in Homs

The Plastic Art movement in Homs can be traced back to three generations. The first one was in the 1960s: “We are not the first generation of artists” says Abdulkader Azzouz; a 70 years artist whose works were exhibited in Jordan, Lebanon and Sharjah, “There are pioneers who came before us in the 1960s, followed by the second generation. My colleagues and I are the third generation of Homs’s plastic artists”.

Over the three generations, the Subhi Shuaib centre for Plastic Art was considered a guardian for their artistic and social activities. The city has never witnessed any other place in matters of importance and stability. The center was founded by Subhi Shuaib in 1962 as a place to learn Plastic Art for free. Later on, in honor of Subhi Shuaib, the center was named after him and it started to be similar in its position to another center in Damascus: Adham Ismail Center. Adham Ismail is one of the most important icons of Plastic Art in Syria. The Subhi Shuaib center was perceived as a high institute for arts, which was able to produce a group of highly talented artists whose reputation has reached local, regional and international levels. Nevertheless, the center has been always the place for those artists who would visit whenever they miss their hometown. They meet at the second floor of the aging building whose black rocks and adjacent rooms form part of their personal and artistic history. They enjoy the summer breeze of Homs at the Union Club for Plastic Artists in the first floor along with Ash-Shaab Hall (People’s Hall) which looks up a very busy street in the city, the aspect which made it the most important gallery in Homs and it has always hosted the works of the city artists on different levels. Although the hall was not much active in marketing the artworks or in establishing an artistic identity for the city, it has contributed to providing a free space for artists to show their works in the city center. In addition, the garden where the Union club is located next to the hall used to be that simple and typical venue for all the city artists who would come to enjoy an atmosphere of art and creativity despite the few number of tables out there which did not exceed ten tables.

In addition to the Subhi Shuaib center, a similar experience took place in the city during the 1960s. After studying art in Italy, artist FadaanAddandashi established a big gallery for Plastic Art in the Meydan area near Homs-Damascus road. Although it didn’t last for long since the owner had to move, the gallery hosted important solo and group exhibitions at that time.

The same destiny faced Ash-Shami Gallery which was established during the 1980s by artist Walid Ash-Shami. It was considered one of the most important galleries in the city based on the level of exhibitions it used to host, but that also didn’t last long due to the immigration of its owner. Al-Atassi Gallery for Plastic Art was established during the 1980s as well, which has become one of the most important galleries in Damascus and then Dubai later on. The first version of the gallery was founded in Homs by sisters Muna and Maila’a Al-Atassi in 1986at the attic of their bookshop, Ornina. Gradually, more space was allocated to the gallery in the same building and it became more convenient in its style to host exhibitions for very important artists from Homs and other Syrian provinces such as Ahmad Darraj Al Sibai, Fateh al-Moudarres, Abdulzaher Murad, Mustafa Bustanji, Ghassan Al-Sibai and many others, the thing which put the gallery in an elite level before it was reopened in Al-Rawda avenue in Damascus in early 1990s to become a consistent part of the Plastic art scene in Syria.

We could conclude that the Plastic art movement in Homs was modest when compared to the capital, but very active given the circumstances at that time. The government support was almost absent and restricted to holding small exhibitions at the Cultural Centre and Ash-shaab Hall. The civil society was not that efficient as well in supporting Homsi artists. Between now and then, the churches used to host some exhibitions for local artists and that is it.

The lack of support for Homsi artists has downsized their presence on the national level since it hardly reflected their production and its value. Dozens of artists like Ahmad Darraj Al Sibai, Muhammad Tuliemat, RidaHashas, Ghassan Nana, Ghias AL-Akhras, Ghassan As-Sibai and others used to produce works of a very high level without paying much attention to marketing them, and the income from selling their works was so humble and barely covered the tools and materials used to produce them. the reason which forced many artists to have a second job to make their living and cover the costs of their love to paint and produce art. There was no art market on the national level in general and on the provincial level in specific. Art used to be something difficult and expensive to practice especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a critical period in the history of the country: security disturbances and economic austerity policies, where most essential resources were missing (food, electricity, fuel…etc.). However, despite the tough situation, artists in Homs continued to work and reinforce their existence and their belief in the value of art and its ability to create a new life for them.

Subhi Shuaib Centre, the house of the artists in Homs city after the war.

By: Abdulaziz Al- Droubi photography

The garden of Subhi Shuaib center before the war.

The garden of Subhi Shuaib center 2017

By: Ghorbah Obeid

The garden of Subhi Shuaib center before the war.

Subhi Shuaib center 

Solo exhibition: Abdullah Obeid 2017

Group of Homsian artists in the Plastic Art Center in Homs 1964 

Aoun Droubi artist's collection

The name of the artists from right to left:

Rashid Shamma - Mohammad Tuleimat - Abdullah Murad - Moustafa Boustanji - Faisal Ajami - Ahmad Drak Al-Sibai - Aoun Al-Droubi - Burhan Al-Jajjah.

Group of Homsian artists in Homs city 

Aoun Al-Droubi artist's collection

The names of the artists from right to left:

Abdulla Murad - Abdulkader Azouoz - Karam-Matouk Ghassan Al-Nana - Aoun Al-Droubi - Mahmoud Shaheen

A group of Homsian artists with friends in The Cultural Center in Damascus 1990

Aoun Al-Droubi artist's collection

The names of the artists from the right up:

Karam Matouk - Abdulla Murad - Bassam Jubeili - Aoun Al-Droubi - Silvi the administrator of the gallery Janieh the administrator of the cultural center 

Fakher Al-Atassi - Mohammad Dib Masri - Morhaf Hakmi - Mouaffak Drak Al-Sibai.

The names from right down:

Mouaffak Jamal Al-Din - Abdul Kader Azzouz - Farouk Kundakji.