In 1995, I was posted to my first UN peacekeeping mission in Zagreb, Croatia. That same year, a shower of cluster bombs during the month of May in Zagreb made me run for my life. Over the years, until 2008, I worked in many war-torn countries like Croatia, Rwanda, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, and Lebanon, among other fascinating places with long periods of conflict. Driven by my curiosity as I learned new cultures, I took the opportunity to visit historical places despite the occasional dangers.
I diligently took notes and made photographs of the historic places I visited. I was attracted to anything that appeared old, decayed, and beaten up by the elements of weather and time. I imagined the natural and organic evolutions of monuments, walls, and the inherited stories within. Years later, I started to paint abstractions of what I saw and recalled of those places.
The beauty of decay, and the destruction and transformation of historical structures, whether through nature or human actions, struck me as significant. I was inspired by the variety of unspoken responses that are revealed by walls and the remaining ruins. I found that the walls talk, and the messages they convey are luminous. While much emptiness remains, my impressions are related to the richness of places that once existed during past ‘golden’ periods.
The paintings in these two exhibitions are fragments of the fascinating countries I visited, some with more than 7,000 years of diverse history. Thus, these themes, “Talking Walls” and “Luminous Emptiness,” draw parallels from what I recognized as stories written on the walls.