Syrian landscapes (part 1)
Most of the landscape compositions of Syrian artists are dedicated to the old Damascus and the village of Maalulya, located in a picturesque mountainous area near Damascus. It has become a source of inspiration and a place of pilgrimage for Syrian landscape painters. The multi-tiered architecture of rural houses that cling to the slopes of the mountains and are picturesquely piled above each other, romantic landscapes of the surroundings, a fertile valley spread out below, as it were, embody the Syrian’s ideal dream of the beauty of the earth.
A recognized master, professor at the Damascus Academy of Arts, Nasir Shaura, has dedicated a series of works to this fabulous corner. The brilliance of the color scheme, the freshness of colors, the ease of the pictorial reception, the good choice of motifs – all this is typical for Shaur’s works. The landscape composition “Maalula” is built vertically. Cubic volumes of stone houses growing one from another are freely located on the side of the mountain, blocks of stones in the upper part of the canvas contrast with the image of houses below. The household spontaneity of the landscape gives the figure of a woman leading a ram home. Beautifully built foreground and background plans, immersed in a transparent purple shadow, between them are the walls of the houses, distinguished by a light mass. Fidelity to nature, the unique beauty of the motive, color richness make this panorama of the mountain village an impressive work of Syrian landscape painting.
Differently perceives Maalulu Luai Kayyali in the picture created in 1964. For him, this is the place of life of specific people with their daily worries and anxieties. That is why the multi-tier structures that occupy the entire space of a small canvas are clearly identified. The artist draws the attention of the viewer to household items: roughly knocked together tables and chairs on the terraces, drying linen. In another landscape, written later, Kayali seems to synthesize his impressions of visits to the village. He complicates the composition, taking the viewer’s imagination into the depths of a narrow street abutting against a cliff face.
Truly there is no limit to the imagination of artists who turn to the image of Maaluli, equally beautiful at different times of the year, in the midday heat and in the late cool evening. Each of the authors tried to create his own image of the village. If Shaur’s landscapes are shrouded in a haze of romanticism, Kayali’s works contain emotion and a certain drama, then the works of Shalima, a graduate of the Moscow State Art Institute named after V.I. Surikov, captured the everyday life of the village.
Bright decorative solutions using intense color contrasts distinguish the work of this master. Usually he chooses a deliberately high point of view, as if from the top of a mountain overlooking the surroundings of a village. Sandwiched on both sides by mountain ranges, houses of rural residents are piled up. The sky is not shown in the picture, thereby emphasizing the impression of enclosure of space.
Many artists strive to embody the characteristic places associated with the legendary history of Damascus in painting. The most common motif is the image of the narrow streets of Damascus with monuments of ancient architecture. At the same time, painters most often confine themselves to the external side of an attractive urban motif, set tasks of a decorative nature, seek to show pictures of nature, local life, and Arab customs that are exotic for the European eye.