Before the Syrian war, Monif Ajaj was critically depicting political events in the Arab world in his oeuvre. In Syria, he focused on peoples’ fear of the repressive regime, which metamorphosed into images of violence, which he describes as “canvases filled with victims … and [I] put them face-to-face with their aggressors, the sons of those in power and the military."
Born in Deir Ezzour, Monif Ajaj (1968) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, Belarus in 1995. He later became a teacher and a designer of children’s books.
In much of his work, Ajaj addresses controversial subjects and problematic political structures, even using the images of Arab rulers. His style mixes realism with expressionism using caricature to highlight the psychological traits of the figures he portrays. As seen through exaggerated body shapes and facial expressions, these mental aspects were influenced by his visits to psychiatric wards in Northern Aleppo. In his opinion, the years of war have turned Syrian citizens into “a horrific, frustrating, delirious, hysterical, neurotic monolithic body.”
Ajaj has held solo exhibitions in Olso, Amman, Paris, Marseille, Brussels, Dubai and Damascus. His artworks are part of the collections of the British Museum; Darat Al Funun, Jordan; and the Ministry of Culture, Damascus.