A leading figure in contemporary Syrian art, Thaier Helal’s large, mixed-media works are considered at the forefront of contemporary abstraction in the Middle East. Drawing inspiration from the physical and sensory aspects of the world around him, Helal explores the dynamism of space as it is reshaped by the fluctuation of society and culture. The artist’s canvases communicate movement and energy through explosions of colour, intricate divisions of the picture plane, and the methodical process of repeatedly layering the surface. Although utilising the leitmotifs of contemporary painting, the artist’s deliberate approach is reminiscent of the formalism of Islamic art, which relies on units as part of a larger whole to communicate a sense of wonder when alluding to the sublime.


Recently, Helal has employed images of the Syrian Army taken from various media in haunting compositions that isolate the mechanisms of warfare. Isolating such stark imagery against a black background, Helal confronts the abject reality that currently besieges Syrians while pointing to the increased militarisation of global society.


Born in Syria in 1967, Thaier Helal graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus before relocating to Sharjah in the 1990s, where he currently lives and works. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Grand Gold Award at the Contemporary Painting Biennial, Tehran (2005); and the Award for Painting at the Sharjah International Biennial (1997). Helal has also contributed to the development of regional art as a longtime faculty member of the University of Sharjah, Fine Arts College.


Selected solo exhibitions for the artist include Ayyam Gallery London (2015); Ayyam Gallery DIFC, Dubai (2014, 2012); Ayyam Gallery Cairo (2011); Ayyam Gallery Beirut (2010); Ayyam Gallery Damascus (2010); Green Art Gallery, Dubai (2006, 2003); Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi (2002); and Sharjah Art Museum (2000). Helal’s works have been featured in group exhibitions and events such as Light as Form, Ayyam Gallery, Beirut (2015); Fluid Forms II, Samsung Blue Square and Busan Museum of Art, South Korea (2014); Art Abu Dhabi (2013-2009), Art Dubai (2013-2010); Alexandria Biennale (2009); Contemporary Painting Biennial, Tehran (2005); Imagining the Book International Biennale Alexandria (2005); Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh (2002, 1997, 1995); and the Sharjah Biennial (1999, 1997, 1995).