Sunday, December 01, 2013

Art: Sara Shamma's Q and Mother and Child

Syrian-born Sara Shamma's Q at the Royal College of Art is an opportunity to see her work of 10 individual paintings that put together make up a frieze of 16.5 metres that explores the subject of herd mentality and that popular British pastime of queuing.

But it is not queuing for the trivial or inane (which is popular in London) but when queuing could be a matter of life or death. Shamma is attempting to capture the change in mentality and behaviour that people at war and under threat experience. Moving from one end of the frieze to the other, images pop out against the flat background using a variety of different techniques to great dramatic effect. Beauty gives way to weariness and death. The lines of people queuing evoke dehumanisation and desperation.

Syria is constantly in the news but here the atrocities are second to the dehumanising impact of war. Shamma recently fled Damascus due to the conflict, leaving behind her home and studio and now lives and works in Lebanon. This is her first solo exhibition in London.

Presented alongside Q is Shamma's Mother & Child. Where Q focuses on how group behaviour affects our existence, this picture where a giant baby gazes down on the viewer with piercing intensity highlights the power and strength of family bonds.

This brief and evocative exhibition finishes tomorrow, Monday 2 December, and is worth a look. Sara Shamma's exhibition is at the Upper Gulbenkiam Gallery, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU from 10am - 6pm. Admission is free.