the sound of silence
In the Damascus home that now doubles up as his studio, five years into the Syrian war, Othman Moussa paints work with the stillness of Vermeer. From his early days at a Syrian art college, the artist was drawn to the still life, the work of the Dutch masters. "For me the subject of silence, or dead nature, as it is called in the French language, is not dead or rigid - it is free life, it can be alive and vibrant with meaning and music," he says.
In one striking, untitled work by Moussa from 2008, soft light from an unseen window washes in from the left; the shadow of a long-handled pan runs down a yellowed wall, the light plays on the golden skin of pears, on the patterned folds of a rug, and creates a white square of reflection on a teapot's glaze. This is nature morte, the still life of fruit, bowl, food, and the Dutch artists of the 17th century, that remain his principal inspiration. These days, however, the works are booby-trapped.
TEXT BY TIM CORNWELL
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