From cynically drawn figures to symbolic still lifes, many of Youssef Abdelke’s series contain commentary about the conflict in Syria. During the war, he explained, “I think all the works in one way or another try to express the concerns and emotions of the ordinary Syrian citizen amid this huge river of blood.” 

Born in Qamishli, Youssef Abdelke (1951) graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University in 1976. In the late 1970s, he was a political prisoner for two years before being forced into exile. Moving to France, he graduated from the École Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts and later from Paris XIII with a PhD in Fine Arts. In 2005, he was able to come back to Syria for a large exhibition and was arrested again for five weeks in 2013.

Working in styles both gestural and realistic, Abdelke uses different techniques such as printmaking – engraving on copper or zinc plates – or drawing with pastels or charcoal on paper. In an acclaimed series, his still lifes of carefully placed objects are bound by ropes or associated together with skulls, knives, fish and other symbolic elements that infer the violence of war.

Abdelke’s works can be found in numerous private collections and museums, amongst them the British Museum, Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Amman Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Kuwait.