Syrian artist comments on civil war with Klimt’s Kiss

A Syrian artist has used the image of Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss” to comment on the war raging in his homeland. In what is perhaps Klimt’s best-known work, a male and female figure are locked in an embrace, seemingly isolated from the world by their love for one another. The background of the work is a glittering gold, lacking any buildings or other environmental details.

"Freedom Graffiti" by Tammam Azzam.

“Freedom Graffiti” by Tammam Azzam.

Klimt began using gold in his painting after he visited the Basilica of San Vitale, Italy, in 1903, where he was inspired by the use of gold in religious art.

For his work titled “Freedom Graffiti,” Tammam Azzam — who was born in Damascus in 1980, but who now resides in Dubai — photoshopped the embracing figures of “The Kiss” on the front of a bombed out building in Syria.

In another work, he has placed the Mona Lisa in front of other buildings, reduced to rubble. Another of Azzam’s works commenting on the ongoing civil war, depicts a hand grenade sprouting small, colorful flowers.

The use of the icons of Western art in Azzam’s visual commentary on Syria’s civil war is striking. Although figures have been depicted in Islamic art — including the religion’s Prophet, Mohammed — such as in Mogul miniature art, depictions of people and other living beings is usually considered haram (prohibited) in Islam.