Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sabhan Adam - Red October

Autodidact artist Sabhan Adam (1972) has emerged as one of the more internationally known young painters in Syrian contemporary art. His work is confrontational, haunting, fanciful, humorus and intensly curious. In an interview between Diala Jumail and the artist, he states "Behind every beautiful thing lies ugliness: that thought pleased me and scared me at the same time. I don’t think like everyone else.”

From those few words Sabhan Adam summarizes the dichotomy between ugliness and beauty that plays out on his canvases. Perhaps so much so that the viewer is made uncomfortable or even made to feel a slight repulsion. Yet that spark of emotion is what draws one to his work. Because his faces are flawed and imperfect, their ugliness becomes fascinating. The initial shock over, and one becomes intrigued and even enamored with his figures.

This leads to the following philosophical questions: what constitutes ugly? Is beauty its natural opposite? What do we as the viewers learn about the artist as we become familiar with his personal aversions? Perhaps it is through an intimate connection between the viewer and the works themselves that what was initially unapproachable becomes endearing, beautiful. They become more and more aesthetically pleasing the deeper the emotional connection.

The figures that populate Sabhan's canvases are reflections of the artist himself. They share similar facial features, they are filled with the anger and sadness that resides within their creator. These figures are witness to isolation and human suffering. Through them Sabhan is able to render the psyche visible in its most pure state.

Looking at his paintings one can see parallels in his work and that of other painters before him. He captures a childlike brilliance like that of Jean Michel Basquiat. He also achieves a monstrous raw honesty like that of Francis Bacon. Yet Sabhan's characters are rarely grounded in a fix space. Instead figures occupy a nondescript isolated and often monochromatic environment. By doing so Sabhan leaves no other option for the viewer but to confront his figures. There is no escape.

Red October is currently at Art Lounge from the 17th of October until the 9th of November.


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