Human relationships, especially ones of an intimate nature, can be the stage for many different forms of drama to be played out; joy, anger, disgust, betrayal, intense expressions of love and adoration – all can be observed and seen simply within the confines of any ongoing, human to human, interaction. When you consider how integral simple social interaction is to us as a species it makes sense that those same dramas should also be the subject of many great paintings and works of art. Whether it’s something as grandiose and intense as Bronzino’s ‘Allegory of Love,’ depicting the carnal relations of Greek Gods or something as literal as James McNeil Whistler’s steely honest portrayal of his own mother in ‘Arrangement In Grey and Black No.1’ (‘Whistler’s Mother’); there has always been, and always will be, a fascination with exploring those tangled ideas that arise from one entity’s interaction or appreciation of another, unfolding them, and laying them bare for others to view and see themselves in.
Rashwan Abdelbaki is a Syrian multi-medium artist specialising in painting, etching, engraving, digital Art, installation and video who studied at Damascus University. He draws inspiration from many different aspects of life as well as being a keen observer and translator of the world around him in a very contemporary sense. The current conflict in Syria of course being a constant reference point to both his work and its process. Therefore, you may be surprised to find that one of the key themes flowing throughout his new collection at Lahd Gallery is that of Adam and Eve.
As with the paintings discussed at the beginning of this description, and countless other works of art throughout recorded history, he focuses on the complexities of their relationship and the problems that could have befallen any couple; a wedding, old age, ongoing social interaction spread of the course years – even the simple act of kissing and the weight of meaning it can carry between two individuals so intimately involved. They are all explored with a keen sense of understanding by the artist and as a series develop a surreal tone of sensitivity which is sure to be known as one of his hallmarks over time.
Although the characters of Adam and Eve themselves seem to blend at times into one another, almost becoming one in form and showing quite literally the symbiotic, co-dependant relationship some couples can adopt in beautiful fashion – the back drop of each painting is always composed of two, very distinctly separated colours which divide the background, horizontally, at varying heights throughout the series.
Although the characters seem intrinsically reliant on each other whenever they appear together, blending into forms more amorphous than human, these backdrops of harshly divided colours in each painting contrast strongly with their gentle and sometimes fragile compositions. This if of course reflective with the often changeable circumstances of a relationship, that much is obvious, but they also serve to suggest two things; firstly that no matter how close man and woman appear to be in various situations – they will always be divided on a base level, and secondly; that there is a horizon line, an end point that we are all travelling towards without exception and it is ambivalent to the stories being played out before it.
In terms of colour this, much like Russian artist Kazimir Malevich’s ‘Red Square’ of 1915, makes the series both sad and yet simplistically sensible in it’s honesty and a very important study overall of what it means to be human. In terms of composition; this almost filmic use of strong dividing lines and mise en scene, reminiscent of that found in the framing of countless shots throughout film noir, goes to show that Abdelbaki’s multiple disciplines, in this case his work filming and video, can often spill over into other pieces and blend to create exciting new works. This makes him both a very exciting, unpredictable, important talent and a keen observer of the human condition.