Syrian artist Imranovi’s graphic portrayal of his country’s struggle

London CNN  — 

A ragged profile of Bashar Al-Assad, made from the bombed ruins of Homs, sits against a desolate gray background.

This is the Modern Face of Syria according to Syrian artist Imranovi. The image is the centerpiece of his first ever solo exhibition in London, and part of a collection of graphics about the destruction of his home country at the hands of, as he sees it, one man:

“It’s all because of him. This man is still ruling the country, he’s still in power. He’s the main reason but everyone has forgotten him. Now all their attention is on ISIS.”

In the series, each piece focuses on the cause, the effect or the solution to Syria’s four-year long conflict.

'Modern Face of Syria'

“The cause is represented in Microscopic Genocide, Voting Centre and The Thinker, where the oppression was at its worst before the eruption of the revolution. The effects are pieces about the death, the hunger and the massacres. The solution is called Tamer. Even if you create a monster with weapons, the future generation will know how to handle it.”

Imranovi, who currently lives in the UAE, says he began creating the collection after the Houla massacre in 2012:

“A very horrible incident triggered me to do this art. It was a massacre. It wasn’t the first – but it was the first one where I saw the images, against children in Homs.”

'Voting Centre'

“The artwork Medals is about the amount of death that happened in nine months; more than 30,000 people. For this, he achieves a medal. And then another one for the most horrible thing that happened – this massacre in Houla. And the last two for the destruction of all that was sacred to people – the mosques and the churches.”

Revolutionary beginnings

Imranova started making art when the Syrian Revolution took root in his hometown Damascus. Fueled by a deep hatred for Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, he worked online with an underground group of artists and activists.

“I was making motion graphics on what’s happening, why we’re revolting and what he is doing against us. I spent several months in Syria in protest; it was true freedom that we experienced. That was three years ago.”

Seven months into the revolution, Imranovi was ordered to join the regime’s army. It forced him to face a stark choice. “Enrolling means I have to shoot civilians, or be shot.”

'The Thinker'

He left Syria for the UAE and began work as an animator, but is worried about his family still living in Damascus.

“It’s all still under the control of the regime, full of barricades. There are lots of house raids and they just take whoever they find to prison. That’s what happened with my two uncles. And my father. They took him as a detainee but recently we found his image as one of the people who died under torture.”

Representing conflict in art

The exhibition Modern Face of Syria is currently being hosted by Art Represent in London, a start-up art platform dedicated to featuring the work of artists affected by conflict.

Founder Baiqu Gonkar says: “We first contacted Imranovi on Facebook. A lot of the time artists in conflict try to get their work out through social media. We help our artists chiefly by selling their work online.”

“With this exhibition, we wanted to bring a more human face to the news and show a different side of conflict and the people in Syria. We talk about them so often without actually thinking of them as individuals.”


Imranovi most recently created artwork Deluge for the exhibition opening. As a depiction of Syrians in a boat floating on the debris of war, it represents a shift in the focus of his work to the people desperately trying to escape.

“The sad thing is that I can’t make something that represents the level of suffering that they are facing,” he says. “I blame myself because I can’t design or find any idea that fits this level. When you see the real image, it just cancels everything else.”

“The purpose of my art now is to say: think, just think about these people. Teach your children, teach your family, or find some organization that helps these refugees. If you can do anything about it, please.”