A composition from Waheed Magharbeh.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Zimzy Gallery, Dubai, is hosting an exclusive exhibition of the artworks of late Syrian artist Waheed Magharbeh (Jan. 21 - Feb. 11).
Titled “Between originality and modernization”, it shows small, selected compositions of the artist, dating 2009 – 2017. Magharbeh (1942 - 2018), was a Syrian artist from the city of Aleppo. He started his artistic career on his own and held his first exhibition in 1961 — to find that his talent astonished the artistic community.
This gave him the opening to further participate in a number of other public and joint exhibitions — until his paintings took a prominent place among the creations of Syrian artists, winning wide interest, especially through shows he held in Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut, along with a number of distinguished artists at the time, such as Louay Kayyali, Fateh Mudarres, besides others.
Despite the status that Magharbeh’s paintings enjoyed in the Syrian and Arab art scene, his ambition to study art academically remained a dream, till he travelled in 1975 to Rome and joined the College of Fine Arts, despite many obstacles and difficult circumstances. There, he won several awards, most notably the Prize for Foreign Artists in Italy and the “Il Mattino” Prize for Italian Art and Craftsmanship (1979). At the end of the eighties of the past century, he returned to his hometown to further devote himself to art.
The popular environment in which Magharbeh was raised, played an active role in his spiritual and psychological evolution. He lived in the Al-Kallasah neighbourhood in Aleppo. The location surrounded him with Arab and Islamic customs and traditions, opening his eyes to scenes from daily life that prompted him to meditate and question.
His works are characterised by freedom from constraints that prevailed in the artistic scene around him at that time; he relied on the cultural memory and awareness of his subjects, and derived artistic values from local heritage and folk art. His paintings have a deep sense of the atmosphere of the popular markets and the movement of people and objects in such places. Through them, the features of Arab architecture are manifested, including its originality and modernity. As for the colours which are characterised by an eastern smell saturated with the spice of magic and sunlight, the artist memorised them from the schemes of oriental carpets, folk textiles, ceramic pots and other scenes and crafts in the old markets that he was concerned with, during visits and reflections.
At the end of the nineties, his longing led him towards the world of abstraction, leading to abstract composition and free colouring. Unlimited possibilities arose in time and place. Broad horizons emerged in the world of modern photography, and his works became a window overlooking new areas of formulas and colour schemes that reflected his persistence in revealing the secrets that fill human memory. The theme grew in his imagination, with the miniatures and aesthetics of the East. Magharbeh said: “I seek to search for my true self through the many artistic experiments that I have been doing, as I have tried to realise the relationships that bind the artist to nature and draw him to it.
“I concluded from this that artist is nature’s son, and he is the only human who encompasses its secrets, depths and dimensions, and it was necessary for me to take a position, style and a special window, to look at nature to determine the features of my artistic personality, and the process of concentration, and it was my concern to see what I paint, not to paint what I see …”
He held more than 20 solo exhibitions in Syria, Italy and Lebanon, and took part in tens of group exhibitions, receiving many awards from Syria and Italy.
Some of his most notable works include the illustrations of the “History of Medicine”, the book by Dr Sulaiman Qataya, which was published in Paris in 1968. Magharbeh also contributed to illustrations in two London-based publications. His artworks have been acquired by various Arab and foreign museums and galleries and are part of several private collections in Syria, Italy and different Arab countries. Many critics wrote about him, and his works have the honour of being written about in newspapers in Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Gulf and Europe. His works have also been acquired by the Ministry of Culture for two national museums of Aleppo and Damascus, and also by private collectors.
It is said “he carried the sciences of the East to the West, mixing their pigments and producing pure and pleasant colours. His ideas converged with the currents in which he grew up and were later integrated into the Rome Academy of Fine Arts, which was the centre of all kinds of artistic development … he was able to combine the ingenuity of composition and the splendour of colouring, in addition to the originality derived from the local heritage.”
Magharbeh died in 2018, after a long struggle with illness. Many artists lamented his departure, including veteran artist Saad Yagan, who posted the following message on his Facebook page: “My only friend has departed, leaving us to gather memories of his real creativity that overwhelmed our hearts with love and beauty. Farewell silent fighter.”
Contemporary art has always drawn the attention of the UAE and its innovative artists, who put excessive efforts in shedding light on the traditional and modern artwork, in order to introduce the world to the creativity and talent of youth in the UAE. Throughout the years, the UAE has supported and sponsored many gifted artists, and encouraged the emergence of their work by providing workshops and art centres to improve and showcase such talents.
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