ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The exhibition, titled Black on display recent works by the artist revealing the human face and body in various states of heightened expression all painted with varying amounts of black paint. The figures, often forlorn and melancholic, sometime with facial features and sometimes without, seemingly contemplate with awe, surprise, sadness and even shock, the various rapid effects of change that are affecting the world around them. Besides his subjects’ expressive positions as they ponder and at times writhe through their questioning of the state of things around them.
While some carry expressions of astonishment, other figures appear locked within their own inner world—somehow protecting them from the chaotic changes outside. Notable is the shape of the eyes for each subject. With their wide oval shape, they are reminiscent of the Arab world’s ancient civilizations, such as found on Sumerian sculptures where the size of the eyes signified a person’s socio-economic status. Here, in Kiwan’s work, these eyes, while reflective of the region’s ancient origins, are emblematic of the vast transformations taking place at a societal, environmental, and cultural level.
Each work is made from a mix of canvas, collage, and various media. The painting, explains Kiwan, is made of various surfaces using fabrics on top of the canvas or on different parts of the human figure that he paints beforehand. “I create my art by searching through various materials, including different paints, fabrics and canvas, to achieve a form that contains an aesthetic and intellectual content derived from my life experience, my relationship with objects, people and my visual memory.”
In so doing, Kiwan creates palimpsests of different materials and subject matter by using techniques of collage and installation. While the different material Kiwan uses is important, the human figure or face is still the protagonist. He creates his men and women in black on a raw surface and then adds bits of color heightening their emotional and figurative sense of expression.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in 1984 in Damascus, Syria, Rabee Kiwan studied at the painting department of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Damascus where he graduated from in 2008. He has lived and worked in Beirut and Paris and now divides his time between Dubai and Swaida, a city in southwestern Syria. The main element of his abstract figurative work is the human figure in its various emotional states. Earlier in his career he was inspired by observing reality and trying to imitate what he saw through his works. In recent years, he has preferred abstraction that lends itself better to portraying heightened states of emotional through facial expressions and the human body. He works primarily on canvas in acrylic and oil painting and in mixed media, incorporating various fabrics, paints and other items to create his work. Kiwan has shown his work at Lab 44 Gallery in Paris, France; Europia in Paris, France; Adiacenze Gallery in Bologna, Italy; Marc Hachem Gallery in Beirut, Lebanon; Kozah Gallery also in Damascus, Syria; World Bank exhibition in Washington DC, USA; the French Cultural Center in Damascus and the Arab Cultural Center in Abu Rumana, Syria.