Fateh Moudarres (Syrian, 1922-1999)
FATEH MOUDARRES Fateh Moudarres' life and art have been heavily impacted and influenced by three main areas: first, his personal life and its tragedies, especially those related to his immediate family, had a strong influence on Moudarres' oeuvre. Through his very rich body of works, there were many examples and references to his two children from his first marriage, both of whom were lost at an early age - his son had lost his voice when very young, and consequently lived for many years in deep silence before passing away at an early age, a tragedy reflected in the many faces without mouths, one of Fateh's signature motifs; his daughter also passed away very young due to heart failure. Although Moudarres moved on in life, by marrying again and having three further children, the old wound and agony over his first two children never left his canvases. Moudarres' upbringing was shaped by a great sense of freedom, spending most of his childhood modestly in the north prairies of Syria near Aleppo. With the absence of a father figure, he had a very loving mother, whom he celebrated many times in his paintings, as well as strict uncles, who represented the paternal figure he had lost. However, as Moudarres got older, his life became tougher and he lacked freedom as he became politically involved with many Arab causes prevalent under very overpowering regimes. As a result, the second most important element in his work derives from negative political changes, namely The Palestinian conflict, the Lebanese civil war and the troubled occupied territories in Syria and its neighboring countries. In such works reminiscent of this political turmoil, there is often a powerful sense of collective loss, just as Moudarres and his contemporaries felt the loss of the Golan Heights and the pain of the civil war in Lebanon. Ideas such as the Loss of the Arab Dream, human cruelty, lack of justice and morality and the transformation of the human being into a monster, all come through strongly in his works. Finally, the third crucial impact on his work were his studies, his extensive reading and the cultural side of his life, deeply rooted with the Old Levant and Mesopotamian mythology. The five lots presented in this sale encompass aspects from all three of these main areas and are examples of Moudarres' wide range of subject matters and stylistic approaches. The Self-Portrait with a Blue Fish (lot 3) is a very unusual composition, through its palette of pale blue hues, rarely used by Moudarres. The male figure, supposedly embodying the artist, has a very direct gaze, recalling figures from ancient Assyrian temples, as he proudly clutches at his big catch, a disproportioned blue fish. This painting is a very surprising example of optimism for a work by Moudarres. Unlike many of his figures with their eyes mostly shut to the world, Moudarres represents himself with eyes wide open, showing that he observes everything around him, yet with great defiance. Lot 5, entitled The Beast Exit shows a group of figures, arranged symmetrically. This painting dates from 1977 and is far more optimistic in its use of colours, lighter and fresher with predominantly white paint compared to the darker ochre and beige in the earlier works from the late 1960s. The composition is inspired by the city of Damascus, the striped patterns reminiscent of the walls of Mamluk buildings in the city, constructed in the ablaq technique, with alternate layers of black basalt and lighter coloured stones. Here the stripes appear on the bodies of the figures in the crowd, so that the people are merged with the walls of the city. Moudarres' work refers not only to events contemporary to the time of its execution, but also to the entire collective history of the region - typical of his work, elements are connected and interconnected with objects and figures treated similarly, breaking down the boundaries between them. Creating an effect akin to the surface of a mosaic, this natural flow of people, faces, women and children, is trapped between the sky and the earth. Despite this, there are juxtapositions of emotions and feelings. There is anger in some of the figures, goodness in others. Life, according to Moudarres was never one-sided - he always sought a balance. In this work, he is crying out for balance to be restored in the Middle East, on the walls of Damascus, a theme which could not be more appropriate in the context of today's struggles. Moudarres' Carnaval, completed in 1971 (lot 30) is a very totemic image, built up with many figures on top of one another. Here Moudarres creates a visual analogue for his holistic philosophy in which events are connected to each other. The title 'carnival', which would usually include connotations of happiness, lightness, and celebration, could also suggest the chaos and troubled minds of rulers. A carnival is often chaotic, hinting to the rulers' complex relations with their people, the lack of order and the absence of respect for the law. Although Fateh Moudarres portrayed mostly faceless crowds, Portrait of a Woman (lot 31) is one of very few examples of portraiture in the artist's oeuvre. These portraits were often special commissions from his closest friends or members of his family. This painting, dated 1966, is a very unique piece in its realistic and lively depiction of her face, yet with the distinct spontaneous colourful brushstrokes on the background in which Moudarres uses a rich palette of bright reds, soft browns and luminous white tones. Finally, in lot 57, Moudarres reads analogies into religious symbols, such as the Cross, which for him, is both a link between Man and God but also one between Man and Man. Moudarres mistrusts the horizontal links between Man and Man, and instead prefers the vertical link between Man and God, hence the columnar composition. Moreover, by creating this vertical land, which is always looking to the north, Moudarres idealizes his childhood memories in Northern Syria. The long body of the Christ, is Moudarres' own painful journey, carrying on his shoulders the many agonies of life. Moudarres today is regarded as the most important modern artist in Syria. His very distinctive style, his spontaneous strokes, his earthy and sandy palette, his minute use of gold leaf, his featureless faces and his endless references to Syrian Christian iconography are some of the most recognized forms of modern Syrian art and Fateh Moudarres is still an inspiration for successive generations of Syrian artists. PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT U.A.E. COLLECTION
Fateh Moudarres (Syrian, 1922-1999)

Self-Portrait with Blue Fish

Details
Fateh Moudarres (Syrian, 1922-1999)
Self-Portrait with Blue Fish
signed and dated '1971 Moudarres' and signed in Arabic (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'F.Moudarres Damascus 1971' and signed, dated and inscribed in Arabic (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
33¾ x 27½in. (84.5 x 70cm.)
Painted in 1971
Exhibited
Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace, Gallery One, Opening the Doors: Collecting Middle Eastern Art, November 2010 - January 2011, p. 52 (illustrated p. 53).

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