“I'm just trying to be truthful to my life.”
The Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul first painted his enigmatic monochromatic woman with Pharaonic eyes in his mid-twenties. Since then, she, along with her sisters, has become the narrator of Dahoul’s life story.
As he told Anna Seaman at Abu Dhabi’s English-language publication, The National “The first time I painted her I called it Dream because I didn’t want to have to explain it. I didn’t know then that it was going to be part of a series or that she would stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Based on a real person from Dahoul’s youth, with whom he had “an impossible love story,” she has grown with the artist over the years expressing his thoughts and ruminations.
As he explained “The face you see in my work is the narrator. She is the person who writes my daily journal and when I come to paint her I don’t know what she is going to say, we just sit there and have a debate.”
The Pharaonic eyes came about Dahoul’s interest in the ancient Egyptian art style that decorated the Pharaoh's tombs.
About which he explained to Forward Magazine’s Kareem Shukr “Generally speaking, I love Pharaonic art. The issue of Pharaonic eyes was also a coincidence. I work on empty space around shapes, and had started to draw a human being’s face in the form of a mask. And in masks, as you know, there is always room for the eyes. I realized that if I work around the eyes a little bit, they will resemble Pharaonic eyes. Since I already like Pharaonic art, I borrowed from it in my paintings.”
Whilst Dahoul’s restricted palette adheres to his belief of less being more.
As he told The Canvas Supplement “Less color means clearer ideas, less color asks for a more sensitive perception from the viewer… There is an old proverb in Arabic that says, the fewer the words, the better. For me it is the same with color. You can say a lot more with nuance.”
Dahoul’s current exhibition Still Dreaming is on show at Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery until the 30th of May.