The enigmatic and widely acclaimed artist Safwan Dahoul explores the female form in a profound way. Through a muted colour palette and minimalist approach, Dahoul’s visual interpretations of a dream attempt to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious minds. As he once mentioned in an interview, his artistic vocabulary is largely informed by his determination to bring to life some of the recurring images and memories suppressed by his subconscious.
In the present work Rêve, the sofa upon which the woman is peacefully laying and the table and chairs in front of her are all familiar items found in most traditional houses. While her eyes and the calm look on her face suggest that she is resting at ease, her firmly crossed arms, with her legs drawn in, could be implying otherwise. By sleeping in a shielded position in her own home, it implies that even the most familiar setting could be a source of alienation to her. This female protagonist, a recurring figure in his works, has a pronounced form, highlighted by a little black dress and short black hair outlining her mysterious face. The limited attention to embellishment on this canvas enables the viewer to focus their attention onto her and the world she is clearly immersed in and as such, ornamentation, which can often serve as a distraction, is entirely negated. Rather, this minimalist sensibility is employed as he attempts to engage the viewer in the mind of his protagonist. By creating clear juxtapositions, the artist attempts to set two moods, and convey simultaneous messages. These are visible through her contradictory body language – both at peace yet defensive similarly mirrored through the painting’s sombre tonality, suggesting both serenity as well as passivity. The monochromatic colour palette used in this piece is derived from Dahoul’s surroundings in Syria where he feels colourless, affected by the country’s current political climate. Believing that now citizens unconsciously fear colour, this work encourages the viewer to look for more profound connotations, which this limited range of colour can make more apparent.
For Dahoul, a consistency in technique seemed to be of primordial importance. By maintaining key elements of his style, such as geometrical line, flawless parallelism and organised symmetry, the artist had the ability to adapt his style and incorporate inventive modifications across numerous materials and mediums of which wood was his preferred choice. Within his works, countless meanings and explanations can be derived, all under the main theme of the dream and this is where this modern artist excels. Dahoul is very well acquainted with the language of painting yet he surpasses all expectations by defying its basic principles all while presenting a complex masterpiece.