Ayyam Gallery is pleased to present Diary, a solo exhibition featuring Tammam Azzam’s recent body of work.
In the exhibition Diary, Tammam Azzam, an artist known for his profound explorations of the destruction and reconstruction of an image or space, showcases works that play with perspective. Horizon lines expand outward and urban vistas are cut into parts, interrupted like the lines of a window frame. In one untitled 2021 painting, the sky is a turquoise sea-blue, which complicates the boundaries of the subject, an earthy terrain referencing the lava fields in the south of Syria, where Azzam is from. The sea-sky’s color marks a tonality he has carried with him, visible in paintings of scenes from parts of Berlin, thus connecting different places in visual moments.
In four 2022 studies on paper, Azzam zooms in on a particular building in a Berlin neighborhood, mapping its rise with a rectangular grid of windows. At times the rectangles are left blank like empty plots and while in other cases they are filled in and fused. Through the use of color, the architecture — enveloped by a conventional sky or muddy green and red — becomes a subjective reality.
2018 marked a significant turning point for Azzam, where he delved into paper collages. The papers he uses, varying from 30 to 110 grams, are layered, glued and constituted in detail through a meticulous use of color. His resulting broken-up façades move beyond the collapsed cityscapes evident in other signature works such as the largely monochrome 2014 series Storeys. Where much of Azzam’s previous work has been seen to index the war-torn country he left behind in 2016, his visual narratives construct an arc broader than displacement and memory. Pieced together in collages on canvas like intricate yet imperfect puzzles, the artist evokes a vision about to be formed. The painted paper collages are symbolic of the delicate balance between fragility and creation, between a weathered façade and fluid abstractions of nature. In Neukladow for example, a certain opacity in technique is tempered with washes and reflections of water.
In his depictions of empty roads that go beyond our field of vision, he creates a topography like veins of marble, disappearing in the distance. Each fragment in his work (of color, material, form) is a piece of time, a rhythm. And the entire picture is more than the sum of its parts. Take the 2023 collage of copper-toned tectonic plates which could equally be the earth’s crust or an icy lake shimmering in the sun. Just above the painting’s center the ground becomes a vertical, cracked wall. This kind of shift in vantage point impacts the work’s sense of dimension and texture as well as the ways in which the eye travels and rests — how we understand the world and time.
As Azzam bears witness to his surroundings, adopting a point of view that is never top-down but consistently frontal, he emphasizes a minute scale within more-than-human worlds. Empty of living beings and yet eerily familiar, these are instances of stillness and presence — situated after an event has already happened, or before an imminent occurrence.
Text by Nadine Khalil
Press release from Ayyam Gallery
Image: Tammam Azzam. Untitled. 2021. Triptych. Mixed media on canvas. 170 x 420 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery