Executed in: 2010
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 195.5 x 146.5 cm
Signed and dated on the back
Sfeir Semler Gallery, Beirut. Christie's, Phillipe Hatem Foundation for a Happy Childhood Art Collectors' Auction, MIM Museum, Beirut, March 5, 2015.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.
Marwan Kassab Bachi, commonly known as ‘Marwan’, was born in Damascus to a wealthy, local family. He studied Arabic Literature at the University of Damascus from 1955 – 1957 and later went on to study in Berlin at the Hochschule der Bildende Künste completing his training in painting under the supervision of the artist Hann Trier. In 1973 he moved to Paris and completed a formative scholarship at La Cité Internationale des Arts. While his artistic schooling helped form his aesthetic sensibilities, the poetic language that emanates from his paintings were a result of his knowledge and affinity to Arabic Literature. Marwan’s artworks did not allude directly to Arabic stylistic influences or traditions, however the essence and lifeforce of his oeuvre was born from a psyche still connected to his birthplace.
Between 1977 and 2004 Marwan worked at the Hochschule der Bildende Künste as a professor. In 2003 Marwan established a Summer Academy at the Darat al-Funun Foundation in Amman. He supervised workshops joined by several artists including Ayman Baalbaki, Tagreed Darghouth and Serwan Baran. Due to Marwan’s vast involvement within the Berlin and Arab art scenes he was asked to join the Akademie der Künste in 1994, becoming the first Arab member of this institution. Marwan joined the European art movement ‘New Figuration’ which denounced the social and political realities from a narrative perspective. Highly inspired by Expressionism, the artist targeted the character of the person in his oeuvre. He believed in expressing life’s complexity through the illustration of faces.
Painting almost exclusively figures, Marwan altered their proportions and placed an emphasis on the energy stemming from the facial expressions executing them with a clear delineation. Through their detailed facial expressions his figures question the human condition, shining a light on the psychological impact on a generation of individuals living through a period of instability and anxiety. A humanist, Marwan integrated a large part of subjectivity in his art as if he was displaying his own relationship with the planet. Marwan initially modelled the faces after himself and gradually flattened them turning them into a sort of landscape stretching unto the entire surface of the composition. Progressively, Marwan abstracted and enlarged the heads, superimposing layers of thick paint creating a three-dimensional effect. He exaggerated the proportions of some features. The figure or head whose skin looks mutilated stares at the viewer thus sharing his suffering and uncertainties much like the painting Untitled.
‘Anyone visiting an exhibition by Marwan should by now expect to see further variations on the same theme: heads, or better faces – physiognomies indissolubly woven into the pictorial surface that seem to look at the viewer from an indeterminate depth. For almost forty years Marwan has been developing this facial landscapes of his early work to the steeply towering ecstatically vibrating monumental heads to double-head configurations, in which a cool, greenish chord has recently begun to contrast and complement the predominantly warm, magenta-brown bias of his colouration, In the course of this development, the distanced fixation of the viewer by a pair of eyes from the far upper back has given way to a single, impenetrably veiled gaze.’
Robert Kudielka, Marwan and the Marionette.
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