Painting Explorations of the Ruins of Syria
Among the most compelling documentation of the breadth and completeness of destruction that has taken place in many Syrian cities during the current war is a short video of the war-torn ruins of Homs, Syria, shot by an aerial drone and released by Russia Today news network early last year. In the surreal video, the drone acts as a 21st-century flâneur above the ruins; its high-definition gaze reveals the city, devoid of people and desaturated by war, like an animated photograph by Eugène Atget. The collapsed facades of the empty streets evert the scene, exposing the city’s underlying network of small rooms which provide scale to the vastness of the devastation and emphasize the absence of the city’s inhabitants.
The video came to the attention of Philadelphia artist and architect, Barry Ginder, while he was considering an architectural ideas competition for post-war housing in Syria. Although he did not enter the competition, he continued to be drawn to the video. Unable to separate the video’s images of physical devastation from the countless other images he had seen of Syrian refugees displaced around the world, Barry produced a series of watercolor paintings which explored this tragic barrage of imagery. The abstract works utilize the ruins as a framework and capture the abruptness of the destruction, but they also peer between the collapsed layers and fill the voids with a sense of light and color that unites the discordant images of the war.