Visual artist Maher Al Khoury arrived in Australia seeking asylum from Syria four years ago. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1988, he had a dynamic arts career working across the Middle East as a university lecturer and artist, with exhibitions in Syria and Abu Dhabi.
Refugee and artist Maher Al Koury. Photo credits: Anna Kucera.
Settlement Services International (SSI) curated "Motherland – Exile/Refuge – Migration (repeat)", an exhibition presented in partnership with ANMM, January 6–26, 2021, which included Mr Al Khory's most recent work "Ground Zero".
Mr Al Khoury said that he was very proud to be participating in the show, particularly as it was one of his first exhibitions since relocating to Australia and his first at a major cultural institution.
"I want to share my story and my art with Australian people. I am proud to be doing this work because I want to share my experience and my country, Syria's, civilisation with Australians. I think this is important because Australia is a peaceful place," he said.
As a visual artist and teacher specialising in painting and drawing, he has been a regular participant in SSI Arts & Culture's Creative Pathways initiative since 2018.
For Mr Al Khoury, art is an essential part of life—supporting the discovery of self and the exploration of the future. This is especially valuable during times of war when there is little else to keep hope alive. It is also a vital tool for communicating his story.
"I find it difficult to express myself or describe things and my story in words. I am an artist, so I am far better at expressing [ideas] through my pictures," Mr Al Khoury said.
His recent work commissioned for this exhibition, "Ground Zero", tells the story of his journey as an artist losing everything due to the destruction of his homeland and arriving in Australia in search of visions of hope for a new future for himself and his family.
"War not only destroys cities and towns and objects of beauty, war defaces humanity. The effects of war can leave a person feeling empty. Art is a way out of that emptiness," he said.
As a professional artist, Maher challenges himself to see things anew, to allow objects and subjects that appeal to him to take on identities that throw a different light on how they are perceived. He is interested in the interplay between 'reality' and 'illusion'.
Mr Al Khoury's artwork and the other pieces in the exhibition encompass rich visual and conceptual approaches to the often-conflicting understandings of migration.
You can peruse Mr Khoury's work in the exhibition catalogue here.