ESCAPING WARS AND WAVES an exhibition by Olivier Kugler

In the past few years we have seen images of refugees on our screens and in our news feeds. We have been given statistics and figures and we have been told the reasons why there are thousands upon thousands of people that are fleeing their homes for their survival and the survival of their families. What we are not told are the stories about these people. More often than not they are reduced to a stereotype or a general impression that is easier for us to digest than the individual complexities that exist between person to person in the mass migration that Europe has seen.

Enter Olivier Kugler. Through his illustrations, drawings and artworks he has managed to give us an intimate insight into the Syrian refugees and their lives. Kugler uses a variety of mediums in order to record the stories of the people that he meets and the resulting illustrations that he produces are an uncompromising research and investigation that creates a picture for the audience that has more depth and insight than most of the images with which we have hitherto been presented.

The artist produces drawings done with a distinctive line with quotes and information scrawled alongside them. These are often produced from photographs and voice recordings or pencil drawings that are to become the colour illustrations with accompanying text.
The stories that are told through these illustrations are personal and are stories that have not yet been widely told despite the importance of the issue at hand. What is being said through these illustrations is integral to societies better understanding of this world crisis.

The portraits that the artist has produced are extremely human and emotive and there is a familiarity created with the viewer almost immediately due to the strong eye contact and, through the quick line work, the people in the drawings seem anything but static as we join them briefly on their incredulous and horrifying journey. The people in the illustrations are surrounded by a multitude of objects and possessions that allow us to connect even further with the faces as we see a shared humanity. The viewer can recognise familiar clothing brands and phones that provide a window to the life that these refugees were forced to leave.

Kugler has attempted to give us the opportunity to experience some of what he discovered when spending time with the Syrian refugees. This is something that is invaluable as the European migrant crisis will continue to have global ramifications for years to come and our ability to understand the crisis on a deeper level than that which has been provided by the media is imperative if we are to work towards a solution that properly considers the people who have suffered most: those that are trying desperately to find safety.

In 2018 these illustrations will become a prolific book that will be published by in the UK by Myriad Editions / New Internationalist and will be called ‘Escaping Wars and Waves’.