March 21 – April 2, 2015
Hosni Radwan’s paintings have absorbed the colours, and spirit of Palestine mingling in the turmoil of feelings, faces, thoughts and bodies that inhabit it. The artist is what Baudelaire describes as a “lover of crowds and incognitos” who appreciates “every- thing that happens on the surface of the world”. We meet Radwan’s art in the streets of Palestine where a woman sits pensive on the doorsteps holding her knees in search of some rest (Patiently Waiting, acrylic and charcoal, 2015). Is she waiting for someone, thinking or dreaming? Another woman walks by; a girl whispers in her friend’s ear (Discrete, 2015 charcoal on paper); a gust of wind blows and dark hair trails in the breeze (Breeze,2015 mixed media on paper); a man walks by on his way to work; a woman sits in a café; will he talk to her? Men and women carry on their usual business in the streets of the city, in the market and in shops. They all live in the universe of Radwan’s work. Bodies and faces appear and disappear in the artist’s densely worked paintings. Each body is a continent; each face is a map of affects, memories and expressions. For, a mouth or an eye is not simply body parts – they have their own stories to tell. Stories without words that speak to us in the language of material – of vivid colours, shapes and textures. The artist depicts bodies and faces as fragmented; in his paintings any illusion of unity of perception is disrupted. These bodies and faces are like the places they inhabit, a modern patchwork of memories, concrete buildings, images, lived lives, smells and sensations. Any ideal unity is exploded. To create the effect of fragmentation, the artist’s work makes a references to Picasso’s deconstructive style sometimes using as support wood or paper to disrupt not only the unity of the depicted subject, but also of the support itself. Mask (2014), for instance, a diptych showing two mouths roughly painted in white on a piece of wood mounted on supports made of wood and paper. In Radwan’s paintings the face becomes the surface on which the subject’s interiority and the outside world are equally reflected. A nose becomes a tree, a chick changes into a square, a mouth transforms into a bench. As the painting takes shape, figures emerge and the reality of the place unfolds. In Radwan’s work, art manifests with the insatiable passion for seeing and feeling. It sets up house in the heart of the place, in the middle of the ebb and flow of the crowd, in the infinite and the fleeting. Art responds to the movements of a place, and reproduces the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all its elements: colours, spirits, joy and pain of Palestine. Radwan’s paintings and drawings do not so much depict the place, for the place lives in them.
Hosni Radwan was born in Baghdad in 1955 and completed his studies at the Fine Art College in 1978. Radwan is an abstract painter and his work is influenced by the environment in which he has lived including Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s. Places, landscapes and portraiture continue to dominate his work.
He has exhibited widely with many of his contemporaries and his solo shows have been held in cities including Tunis (1993); Tokyo (1985); Nicosia (1983); Ramallah (1997, 2002, 2003); Baghdad (2001) and Kuwait (2008).
From the Artist
In this exhibition, I went back to some early spontaneous scripts bearing expressions of places and people and transforming them through an action of passion- into black lines forming shapes of human bodies. By operating on bigger spaces, I converted my paintings into a home for extended colors, solid materials, soil and paper scraps, intending to achieve the same goal.
Hosni Radwan, March 2015