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JERUSALEM: CITY OF PARADOXES
20 OCTOBER - 31 DECEMBER 2022
The city of Jerusalem is the focus of Hosni Radwan’s latest series of artworks. Using charcoal, acrylic, and gold leaf on canvas, he attempts to express his fascination with a city haunted by shades of paradoxes.
The minute Radwan saw Jerusalem, after living in the diaspora most of his life, he fell in love with it. He was fascinated with the place, its beauty, and contradictions; the little arches, the oriental style of architecture, the smells, the colors, the noises, and the unique way of living. Jerusalem brought the artist closer to safety and belonging as it carried him back to his childhood in the old city of Baghdad (the place where his family was displaced in 1948). The two places have many things in common, which appear on the surface of his paintings as childish sparkles, cold grey corners, little ancient white domes, golden holy places as well as pink stones.
Using black charcoal mixed with colorful vibrant colors touches metaphorically on the situation of the city, taking history and politics into account. Radwan applies colorful areas and uses charcoal as well in an attempt of revealing contradictions: day and night; past and present; oppression and freedom; vibrant life and the loss of some of its aspects under occupation. The holy city in this series is present with all its details yet it seems hollow as there are no people and very few traces.
In the two paintings City of Paradoxes (3 and 4), Radwan presents the city using vibrant colors that are dominated by warm reds and oranges and yellows. It’s old houses and alleys and little stairs are all colorful as well as the little scattered windows. The city in Radwan’s works looks like a town from a fairy tale. At the bottom of the paintings, he uses charcoal to draw lonely olive trees. The olive grove appears outside the city in black and white not touched by Radwan’s magic colorful wand. The trees look ancient yet sturdy with a certain hint of sadness and steadfastness.
In City of Paradoxes (1), The holy city is divided into two parts; a colorful vibrant part that looks as if bathing in the sunlight, and a dark part with little ancient houses and holy places covered with nightshades. In the middle, a few buildings are dipping in the dawn or dusk hues.
The deep intense red skies in the diptych, City of Paradoxes (5), are distinctive. The old city seems tranquil as never been. Radwan mixes charcoal and acrylic, presenting a deep red hue that carries the city to a different calm peaceful geographical spot in his imagination. He uses charcoal for drawing the old city’s houses with their stairs, alleys, and arches. While their windows beam with red and orange colors similar to the sky as if reflecting the deep red skies. It’s easy to see the safety and belonging in this homely warm atmosphere radiating from those little windows and doors.
In the painting City of Paradoxes (2), Radwan divides the painting into blocks, then shuffles them around. As if he is asking the viewer to shuffle them back in his head. The charcoal blocks mix with the colored blocks, forming an intriguing work.