Elias Zayat: Cities and Legends

Born in Damascus in 1935, where he stills lives and works, Elias Zayat is one of the founders of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus, where he taught until his retirement in 2000. As a painter and icon restorer, his art is influenced by religious and popular iconography. Zayat’s oeuvre remains intimately concerned with the history, terrain and psyche of his homeland. His parallel life as an art restorer and historian is evident in his rich vocabulary drawn from Byzantine, early Christian, Sufist, and popular iconography. He has published several studies in the history of art, iconography and art criticism. Despite emerging at the height of Pan-Arabist fervour that culminated in the Naksa of 1967, Elias Zayat managed to resist this sweeping aesthetic hegemony to develop his own inimitable visual language. His works are often emotionally charged, with symbols and pleas for peace caught within seemingly impossible struggles to flee human chaos in order to arrive at a better world. His works on paper form a crucial backbone of his practice and philosophical stance, depicting the movements of birds and new lines of flight.

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