The works are filled with powerful conflicting emotions, drawing the viewer to seek more knowledge about existence, creation, and to interrogate life
Adam said: “You will always discover that you know nothing and that you have to learn more.”
These paintings, explained the artist, might be difficult to understand, yet the viewer derives a mysterious pleasure from trying to analyze and to live in them.
According to art critic Kaelen Goldie, Adam’s paintings are truly a paradox. They are “gnarled, anguished … and carry the potential to tear viewers recklessly from poignancy to bitterness and back again.”
Adam prefers not to comment on his paintings, saying “don’t expect me to explain the meaning of my work or to give a direct reply to the question ‘what does the works represent?”
“It is the painting’s turn to speak. Listen carefully to my paintings, they are telling you that most artists’ work is intimately linked with the social and political struggles of their people”.
Although most of the paintings, to which he gave numbers rather than names, are in black and white, Adam also introduced very powerful colors such as red, green and yellow.
“No matter how cruel it is, life always has hope.”
His paintings are characterized by the absence of frames. “I am like a windowless room … since my characters live in that room, they create a lack of oxygen …,” said Adam.
Explaining that art is meant to be simple and free, he said there is no need for any kind of “titillating.”
Adam’s artistic reputation reaches far and wide. A number of his creations have been acquired by the Louvre Museum, the Damascus National Gallery and many European embassies in Damascus.
Born in 1972 in Syria, Adam is widely believed to be a self-reliant artist who built his profession through hard work and dedication to the plastic art. Adam’s first exhibition was in 1989 in Istanbul and was followed by exhibition in almost every major European city.
The exhibition can be seen through Feb. 28.
JO Magazine | January 2005 | Issue 17 | Page 114-115
Man in Balck
Words by Muna Mufti
An artist’s work is a testament to himself.
Muna Mufti takes a deeper look at the dark and daunting world of Syrian painter Adam Sabhan.
“The world is sad and has sadness in it”, Adam Sabhan cryptically explains with no particular reference to any event or distressing situation.
Soft spoken, Adam is reluctant to speak about the nature of his work. The enigmatic artist started painting a year after he wandered away from his poetic writings. Nowadays, his verbal word blockage is entirely discharged onto his expressionist arena of oil on canvas.
His collection of olive khaki canvasses spreads along the white walls of Zara Gallery during Adam’s current exhibition entitled, “Rude Awakening”. The work overflows onto the ceilings and trails up the round ascending which sits in the center of the Gallery. The repetitious nature of the work, continually illustrating a central isolated figure on a dim and shadowy ground, gives the images an unsettling intensity as the viewer is confronted by the recurring and daunting presence of the painting’s subject.
Darkness in Adam’s work is apparent upon first viewing of the ragged and mostly unframed canvasses. The lone character in the work travels through the pieces in a consistent state of obscurity, isolation and infirmity.
Born in Hassakeh, Syria in 1972, and member of the international Society of Expressionistic Art in Paris, Adam Sabhan communicates his spirituality inner life in his paintings. The colors in the work are deep and mysterious, while the presumably “autobiographical” figure, often caught in strained poses, struggles to break through the binds of his solitude and transcend the canvass and dreary space. In his painterly technique, Adam portrays the portrait of the figure in a multilayered fashion, sometimes having several faces or features, thus creating the illusion of the figure existing in several dimensions at once.
Despite the murky tones, color also plays an important role in determining the emotions in the work. The first painting in space, for example, reflects the character with an outer charcoal black wrap (dress) with a vertical inner mixture of fiery colors. Here, the black cloth illustrates a kind of suppression of the strong and passionate inner feelings. The figure’s back is slightly hunched, representing depression, or in Adam’s word’s “withdrawal”.
The following canvasses also show another two replicas of the same creature in a similar pose, this time one is rendered with sickly yellow splotches over the body and the next painted in a turquoise blue covering. The face has persistently the same features, though at times the eyes transfer from black gray to blue and the lips from black to rouge.
During the opening of the exhibition, in the adjacent and hidden L-shaped room of the Gallery, Adam, a modest and unassuming man, stands amongst his paintings smoking a cigarette. Analyzing the work he quietly utters,”When I look at my work now, it is a completely different perspective from when I am painting”. Reserved with word he continues, “I don’t know, some of this work I have not seen for a year. As soon as I finish painting, I roll it up and put it away”.
According to the artist, the entire display is an expression of his subconscious self.
In some instances, Adam refers to the figure in the work as his “demon”. “I have strong emotions, yet am not a strong person, so I don’t have the ‘oomph’ to look at them once I have finished painting them… I just cannot!” he states.
Amongst his paintings, his eyes speak of his character. Like the figure in the work, Adam emanates melancholy and isolation. “I have a studio, where I spend most of time, the rest I spend in Damascus”. He shies away from people and prefers the solitude of his saddened soul.
When asked about his influences in his work, he simply states, “My poetry, I like to read”.