Between 2006 and 2008, Palestinian artist Hanny Khoury was homeless. For two years he roamed the streets of Jerusalem from east to west in a nearly biblical quest for identity. Today, Khoury has successfully established himself as a major Palestinian artist, whose poignant work resonates with experiences of trauma, identity confusion, and instability.
Born in 1990, Hanny Khoury grew up in Eilabun, a small Palestinian village near Tiberias. As a Christian Palestinian, he dealt with the added social pressure and internal conflict of living as a minority. Khoury sought creative outlets from a young age, means of expressing the identity crises brought on by his family and society. Khoury took courses in visual arts at Manshar Hamanhal College in Tel Aviv, but his journey was cut short when he left his conservative family home to live independently. On the streets, he met countless numbers of people and learned invaluable lessons that would greatly inspire his artistic works.
Khoury’s work clearly reflects the years of trial and struggle he endured. Despite being confident in his identity now, Khoury faced years of uncertainties. His work expertly represents his constant struggle against attempts to negate his identity and beliefs. Using a dark, natural palette and organic imagery, Khoury expresses the anger and apprehension of his internal struggle. He returns most often in his work to human or animal forms but distorts and manipulates them. Curved and malleable, his figures bend and fold around each other. Halos and other religious symbols appear throughout his work, pointing towards his complex relationship with his faith. The sun and moon factor into many of his strange landscapes, indicators of time and spirituality, as well as the duality of nature. What is perhaps most jarring about Khoury’s work is the distortion of features and limbs, as if he is conjuring faded memories of people he once knew, attempting to recall a forgotten life. The result is a disturbing, yet captivating depiction of the artist’s inner psyche.
Like many artists, it took years for Khoury to establish a reputation in the region and abroad. After landing on his feet in 2008, Khoury began to paint again. His first collection, “Between Reality and Imagination,” was largely overlooked by the artistic community, but it changed something in the young artist who was moved to continue his education shortly after. Between 2012 and 2015, Khoury practiced art every day, expanding his skills, techniques, and knowledge. He studied art history and analyzed how psychology and personal experiences are portrayed in various artists’ work. He was finally recognized in 2015 when he broke the Guinness World Record for “the largest mosaic painting of expired toast” with a portrait of a Palestinian poet made entirely out of stale bread. However, he was criticized for his assertion of the “Palestinian identity,” and snubbed by the artistic community once again.
In 2017, he decided to migrate to Canada where he could express himself freely, away from the complex identity politics of the Middle East. He embarked on a new leg of his artistic journey and produced a collection that caught the eye of regional collectors who began to take a closer look at Khoury’s story and his work. The momentum began to build and Khoury had his first exhibition in Bethlehem in 2019 hosted by Mr. George Al-Aama, a well-known lecturer and art collector in the Middle East. Entitled “The Chaos Scene”, the exhibition garnered attention from the arts community and the media. In 2020, Khoury took part in “Break,” a group exhibition hosted by art booth in Salwa Zeidan Gallery in Abu Dhabi.
Inspiring and humbling, Khoury’s story is one of redemption and perseverance. From living in the streets to taking on the international art scene, Khoury is the living proof to never give up on your dreams, no matter how rocky the path might be. Despite major setbacks, he held fast to his vision, remaining confident in the identity he forged for himself. Today he is poised to begin the next phase of his career with Mark Hachem Gallery, an internationally renowned contemporary art gallery with locations in Paris, Beirut, and New York.