The disappearance of portraiture as an art form can be felt the world over, as photography has become more accessible and widespread and as artists have chosen to work in more popular, abstract forms. Perhaps nowhere is this loss more acutely felt than in the Middle East, where the death of the art form collides with cultural unrest and upheaval, especially in places like Syria. Syrian artist Hrair Sarkissian uses the photographs featured in Background to document and lament the fading of portraiture from the Syrian artistic tradition. This book features beautifully haunting images of portrait backgrounds absent of their subjects, symbolizing the vanishing point of not only these spaces, but of time and cultural identity.
About the Artist
Hrair Sarkissian is a photographer. Born and raised in Damascus, he earned his foundational training at his father’s photographic studio, where he spent all his childhood vacations and where he worked full-time for twelve years after high school. In 2010 he completed a BFA in Photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. He lives and works in London since 2011.
Sarkissian has exhibited internationally in both group and solo shows, including recently at Tate Modern and New Museum in New York. He is represented by Kalfayan Galleries, Greece.
About the Contributor
Murtaza Vali is a critic, curator and art historian. His ongoing research interests include materialist art histories, ex-centric minimalisms, ghosts and other figures of liminal subjectivities and repressed histories, the weight of colour and contemporary art of the Indian Ocean littoral.
About the Publishers
The Mosaic Rooms are a London-based non-profit cultural organisation dedicated to supporting and promoting comtemporary culture from and about the Arab world through contemporary art exhibitions, multidisciplinary events, artist residencies and learning and engagement programme.
The A.M. Qattan Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organisation founded in 1993 and registered in the UK as a charity. Its principle remit is the support of culture and education in and about Palestine and the Arab World.