'The world knows sorrows other than those of love: Fragrant Roses, Virtuous Lotuses and Singing Nightingales speak in layers of the political and religious colours and symbols and question the anatomy of ruptured masculinities, specifically the Muslim male youth that target the innocent while also being the victims of a system that fails them, demonises them, and eventually denies them redemption and the possibility of returning home.
Ann Finnegan in Death III 2012 exhibition text
"...on a series of found archery paper targets... what appear to be doves of peace, or nightingales, mark up a dark grid, oversketched with the torso of a befringed line figure; in the second a line drawing of a bomber’s vest overlays a red canvas gridded over with roses, and a second layer of a thick circle or target. In the third work, the overlaid figure appears to be that of a captured young suicide bomber, head quietly tilted towards the heavens, a more subdued version of Delacroix’s Victory. The background is a celestial blue, again overlaid with a target, and a grid of gold lotuses. The figure appears to be contemplating paradise. The references to the modernist grid, simultaneously traditionally Islamic in form, confounds the modernist bulls eyes of Jasper Johns with terrorist targets. Modernism’s own abstract laws appear to be contested by that of an active, interrogatory political art, which puts bodies on the line rather than forms, and which seems to be interrogating a higher set of sacred laws. The quasi universal symbolism of celestial blue, funereal black and the passion of deep red readily translates across cultures as do the symbols of the nightingale, the lotus and the rose, all drawn from the South Asian and Persian miniature painting tradition of capturing 'beauty and love.'
In his sketchy overdrawing Syed puts the audience in touch with a phantom body, a spectre of the mind, and makes us see his bomber-figure in Modernism’s abstract quasi-spiritual terms. Rothko’s near-black chapel is there underneath the grid of the nightingales/doves of peace. We’re asked to muse on this barely-there body, on the body sheath of an unholy bomb, lightly sketched up. (Syed views his work as a conversion of his 'blindfolded/trapped/mesmerised/brainwashed' suicide bomber subjects into 'poets and lovers.') We’re asked to dialogue with this body through the unlikely ruse of art historical themes, if only to shift from clichéd perspectives in commodity-focused materialist times. It’s as if through art, Syed is…leading us to more spiritual, and healing planes."