Beirut, April 9th ­ July 11th, 2009
In many ways Marwan (*1934 in Damascus) is a truly singular figure in the realm of artistic expression. Although he has lived in Europe since 1957 he certainly is the most important Arab painter of his generation. As a Syrian artist based in Berlin since five decades he has been strongly affected by German art of the postwar period, but equally kept a close connection to the cultural legacy and spiritual tradition of the Arab world. In doing so, he created an artistic cosmos which links together two cultural worlds: European Modernity and ancient Oriental wisdom
In his painting Marwan restricts himself to a few simple, but essential themes: The human being and the silent life of things - the Head and the Marionette. These few images are enough to provide an endless variety of emotions and an all-encompassing reflection of the human soul.
Marwan´s art has often been compared to the painting of Georg Baselitz, whom he first met 1957 in Berlin when they were students in the painting class of Hann Trier. In the 1960s they both became leading exponents of the “New Figuration”, an alter-native draft to the then dominating artistic tendencies like art informel and tachisme. But although Baselitz, and perhaps Eugen Schönebeck to an even greater extent, might have been figures of reference during these years, Marwan followed his own path from the very beginning. - A path that led him to a very sensuous and spiritual painting, deeply reflecting his own identity as a wanderer between the worlds. While Baselitz emphasizes the spontaneous artistic gesture in a rather impulsive, even furious act of painting, Marwan works slowly, carefully adding layer after layer, giving his images plenty of time to unfold. Pure individual expression is the aim and essence of Baselitz´ painting, whereas Marwan´s art tends to the Universal, seeking a transcendent truth which lies beyond any expression of individual selfhood.
What is most characteristic about Marwan´s work is the figure of recurrence. For over 30 years the human Head has been his almost sole theme, which he has developed with an inexhaustible variety of expression. Marwan paints his Heads in tiny and giant format, in oil and watercolour. There are also portraits, but only a few. Most of Marwan´s Heads are released from any mimetic function, they are portraits of the inner self, the immutable essence of every human being. Thus his art could also be seen as an attempt to encounter the human soul by the means of painting.
The transcendence and spiritual attitude that speak to us through Marwan´s paintings belong to the Oriental world. His art roots deeply in the tradition of Sufi philosophy, the ancient Oriental „wisdom of the heart“, emphasizing the connection of heart, soul and spirit in the Unity of Being. In giving a shape to the secret fears and yearnings of the soul his paintings are also near to poetry. Being involved into Marwan´s image world can be the start of an enchantment; a spiritual adventure and a secret conversation with the inner self.