The significance of Syria
Updated: Feb 17
Medieval heraldry as example for the typical visual language of European Middle Ages
Since 2012 my work is about the visual language of the European Middle Ages. How that visual language came into being, or rather where it came from, was not much of interest to me at first. That changed when the news addressed the destruction of ancient Syrian cultural heritage as a result of the war. Syria is one of the main countries located on the Silk Road and played an important role in world history, from ancient times to the present day. The Silk Road helped spread religion and shaped culture and had therefore great influence on determining the visual language of medieval times, even in Europe.
Caravan of Niccolo and Maffeo Polo (father and uncle of Marco Polo) crossing Asia
War in Syria
I remembered an exhibition by a Dutch painter called Robert Zandvliet who made new works based on old Dutch masters. He didn’t copy the old masters but built upon them as a tribute. To create something new out of destructed artifacts that deserve our everlasting attention, moved me. I realized I could give more meaning to my subject and decided to make art about lost medieval Syrian heritage. Whether it be paintings, manuscripts, architecture, play writings or objects, as long as it inspires me or is of significance to world heritage I can use it to make new work. I just had to find someone to point me in the right direction.
Market at Street called straight, Damascus
After some searching I came in contact with Rania Kataf. Rania is an expert in Syrian cultural heritage and suggested to take me on a virtual tour through Damascus, the old city where she lives. Obviously I didn’t know what to expect. I know so little about Syria, about Damascus, about the war. While holding an iPad, Rania walked through the city and talked about the market, the Umayyad Mosque, Street Called Straight, but also about the Syrian people. It was early morning, during the tour the city awoke. It was like the war had never taken place. Instead I saw a vivid city which made it so easy to see how Middle-Agers from Europe, Africa and Asia would come to Syria and interact with one another in the midst of remnants of the past.
But what could I take from all this to make new art? If Rania showed me one thing, it is just that: the resilience of mankind, openness to the unknown, warmth and curiosity. Openness as cultural heritage, why not?, would be my first topic.
Old picture Street called straight, Damascus
As an idea
An open attitude is certainly something we could all benefit from. In the western world we see ourselves as liberated and open-minded, but we become increasingly polarized.
‘The idea of Syrian gardens’ is an idea about flourishing life in the desert, about contrasts, harmony and earthly riches. The garden was an important theme of medieval Islam and Christianity. To use the idea of Syrian gardens as a leitmotif for this work fits perfectly into our current situation. The world feels dry, we live in haste and we forget to cherish what we appreciate.
This work is not a Syrian artwork, rather inspired by the Syrian people. I hope that “The idea of Syrian gardens” will challenge and tempt us to stir towards open-mindedness. I want this NFT to stand for something meaningful and forever live on the blockchain, hoping to be followed by other artworks that share a positive believe. Sure, this artwork started as an idea and ideas are like seeds, they contain a lot of energy. Let’s see how this seed will flourish.
Public garden, Aleppo
Arabic Illuminated Manuscript