In the present work by Safwan Dahoul, the viewer is invited into a three-panelled scene through which the painter explores two significant relationships; the first, unveils the relationship between a man and woman. The second, their connection within the restricted space they are portrayed in. Through the use of a dark palette, the artist accurately conveys the feelings of despair and hopelessness that the subjects are experiencing. Dahoul’s restricted choice of colours also allows him to fully eliminate any unnecessary components that might distract the viewer and divert their attention from the main figures. It can be said that these figures represent a reflection of him and his late wife, Nawar. In addition, by enclosing the figures in a wooden window frame, the couple is isolated from the outer world, as if they were the only existing human beings. Painting the window outside-in normally suggests that comfort is only obtained from within; however, it seems to be far from the case in this instance.
In the first panel, a woman looks out of her window, with a sadness in her eyes as if in fear of being caught. She appears to be melancholic for not being able to freely and publicly express her love towards the man standing next to her. In the second panel, the window of opportunities is open, she has her head out, attempting to reach out for freedom by stepping out onto the wooden frame, yet to no avail. Her neck is bent down, dejected and disappointed for not being able to find an escape from the pain of the hidden love they share. In the last panel, the man is holding her as a sign of support and protection, while implying that he feels her pain, his presence may also be referring to the patriarchal culture found in the artist’s homeland.
The fact that the paintings are executed on wood offers a fascinating feature, giving the final piece the suitable raw effect the referenced idea needs, through the roughness of its execution. Dahoul adds a second dimension to his paintings by framing the portrayed scene with a wooden border, creating a window within a window, which gives the piece more depth and visual complexity. The timeworn patterns painted on the wood represent the old Damascene houses and the even more conservative society of the nineties whilst the thickness of this frame shrinks the background of the place they are in to keep focus on the protagonists. Through this technique, Dahoul succeeds in grabbing the viewer’s attention whilst simultaneously drawing them into the abundant powerful meanings that are evoked by his works.