Monday 11 January 2016

Third Space: Syria will showcase the work of artist Zaher Omareen, in an attempt to raise awareness of those affected by conflict

A Syrian artist will depict the horrors of war in his debut Belfast exhibition.

London-based artist Zaher Omareen will bring his work, Third Space: Syria, to the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s this week (Wednesday, January 13). 

Featuring 11 short films, the exhibition aims to show the effects of conflict both in Syria and elsewhere, and demonstrate the role that artists play in supporting recovery and resilience.

The emotive short films are based on footage found on YouTube or from Zaher’s friends in Syria, and are interwoven with stories, poems and music, to give a voice to those affected, as well as give a glimpse into the day to day life of people in war-torn countries. Shown on loop, the films leave the viewer with different opinions depending on when they start watching.

Explaining the exhibition, Zaher said: “The show compiles a collection of stories, including mine, from living in Syria under a dictatorship. I am trying to show through the films, the experiences which people are living through in Syria right now.

“The exhibition is not only about Syria, it is about the effects of any war and dictatorship on the people who live through it. Something I hope the audiences in Belfast will relate to.”

The exhibition is part of a wider British Council project, co-curated by Lois Stonock and Alma Salem, which through 30 works of films and photography, explores the roles that artists play in responding to conflict and displacement. This exhibition is the third in the series and has been created as part of ‘Artists in Recovery’, British Council Culture and Development programme.

Speaking about Third Space:Syria was curator, Lois Stonock.

She said: “Zaher’s show presents differing viewpoints from Syria and the consequences of war on people living in the country. Artists provide important and alternative views to that we see in the press and help to build a nuanced understanding of the effects of war. Zaher’s films give us an insight into his experiences and the experiences of others.”

According to Graham Sheffield, Director of Arts, British Council, these exhibitions are vitally important for the long term stability of Syria.

He recently said:  “The overall aim of this work is clear: through arts and culture, civil society is strengthened from the ground up; marginalised people are able to express themselves freely and advocate for their rights successfully.

“Nowhere is this work more valuable than in the responding to the Syrian crisis - during which over 40% of the Syrian population has been displaced: over 7.6 million people inside Syria and 3.7million in neighbouring countries - making Syrians the largest refugee population in the world. 

“Whilst the British Council cannot have a physical presence in the country at present we are committed to supporting the people of Syria through the provision of schemes such as this, as well as through access to English language learning and civil society projects. “

Third Space:Syria runs at the Naughton Gallery from January 13 until Wednesday, February 10. Admission is free.

Notes to Editor

About the artist

Zaher Omareen is a Syrian director, writer and artist based in London. His work includes ‘Two Stories’ (2013), about exile and different visual approaches to remembering conflict.  His current film project draws on footage from inside the Syrian conflict and, with support from the British Council, demonstrates the roles that artists play in supporting recovery and resilience.  Omareen is the artistic director of Syria’s Mobile Phone Film Festival, an international competition which presents pocket films recorded on mobiles and which held festival screenings in war-torn Syria last year.  In 2015 his work was featured in the Victoria & Albert’s exhibition, Disobedient Objects.  He has also curated a series of short Syrian films and curated and commissioned 35 one-shot, one-minute movies by Syrian filmmakers for ‘Imago Mundi Syria’, an exhibition featuring 140 Syrian artists that was shown in Venice Biennale in August 2015. 

About The Naughton Gallery

The Naughton Gallery aims to develop as an aesthetic, academic and creative force which enhances the Queen's experience for staff, students and the wider community.

The Gallery welcomes 16,000 annual visitors including a significant number of international tourist visitors and is listed in Ten of the Best university galleries in the UK and Ireland by The Times Higher.

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Opening Times: Tues-Sun 11am-4pm 


About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, English, science, sport and governance and last year we engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211 million. For every £1 of government grant we receive, we earn £2.50 from other sources. For more information, please visit:, on Facebook –  or follow us on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI

For further information, please contact: 

Claire McAuley T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI,  Facebook