In the sixth installment of the ongoing series of exhibitions focused on printmaking in the Arab world (Arab Print VI), Meem Gallery presents over 40 editioned works created by Marwan between 1967 and 1999.
Internationally celebrated as a master painter, Marwan (1934-2016) also engaged in a less well known but equally accomplished printmaking practice throughout his career. Born in Damascus in 1934, the artist permanently moved to Berlin in 1957 where his exposure to Art Informel and the German Neo Expressionist movements led to the development of his highly distinctive style.
Installing a French printing press in his studio, Marwan's printmaking developed simultaneously with his painting practice. Masterfully harnessing the complex chemistry and technical processes associated with the medium of etching, the artist skillfully incorporated his signature painterly effects into his printed works.
The earliest works in this exhibition demonstrate Marwan's initial focus on the human body. Monochromatic studies of stylised, contorted figures, including Der Unverdeckte, a set of six etchings made in 1969, undoubtedly demonstrate the influence of the New Figuration movement on the young artist. The 1970s saw Marwan increasingly focus on the head/ face, soon becoming the subject matter that he would become most renowned for, as evidenced in the many works in this exhibition. Revealing rich topographies of spontaneous, raw expression, these works, generally referred to as the artist's Kopf or ‘face' landscapes, poignantly manifest the varied experiences of the joys and hardships of life by utilising the rich contours of the human face.
Notable developments in themes, techniques and use of colour can be witnessed in the artist’s work during a year spent in Paris, in 1973. Marwan's faces started to transform, gaining new depths from the increased emphasis of wrinkles and crevices. Vivid colours accentuate the works, lending a heightened vibrancy to his characterful subjects.
Besides Marwan's well-known figures and faces, this exhibition also presents several rare examples of his still lifes. Tables laden with fruit and crockery are rendered in the same sketchy, expressionistic manner as his human subjects, similarly transforming the banal subject matter into complex existential studies.
Brought together for the first time, and created in parallel with his paintings, the works in this exhibition not only showcase the prolific scope of Marwan's little-known printmaking practice, but additionally display his mastery of the notoriously complex process of etching.