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Marwan (Syrian, b. 1934)
Lots are subject to 5% import Duty on the importat… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. ISSA ALAUNEH, GERMANY
Marwan (Syrian, b. 1934)

GROSSER KOPF (NACH RECHTS) (Large Head (Turned Towards the Right))

Details
Marwan (Syrian, b. 1934)
GROSSER KOPF (NACH RECHTS) (Large Head (Turned Towards the Right))
signed and dated 'marwan 74' and again indistinctly (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'MARWAN GROSSER KOPF (NACH RECHTS) - 1974 DEZEMBER' (on the stretcher)
oil and tempera on canvas
64 x 51in. (162.5 x 130cm.)
Painted in December 1974
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1999.
Exhibited
Munich, Galerie Buchholz, Marwan, March 1975.
New York, Gruenebaum Gallery, Marwan, April-May 1976 (illustrated in colour, front page).
Berlin, Galerie Lietzow, Marwan: Gëmalde, 1978.
Baghdad, Museum of Modern Art, Marwan: Paintings and Watercolours, 1980.
Berlin, Galerie Springer, Köpfe, March-April 1987. This exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Galerie Sfeir-Semler, September 1987.
Munich, Gallery Hasenclever, Marwan: Frühe Aquarelle, March-April 1990.
Frankfurt, Gallery Tobias Hirschmann, Marwan, 1993.
Berlin, Galerie Dr. Irene Lehr, Marwan, February-March 2002.
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Lot Essay

It is not often that a viewer can be so captivated, enchanted and engulfed by a singular image. Within Large Head (Turned Towards the Right) by the pioneer of artistic expression and Arab Modernism, Syrian born Marwan, one is transported into a multi-dimensional realm that captures so deeply the inner psyche. Having spent the last six decades in Germany where he currently resides, Marwan's solid inspiration and appreciation for German Post-War art is not a coincidence. Studying with fellow artist Georg Baselitz under the mentorship of artist Hans Trier, a leader in the Tachisme movement, Marwan's paintings magnificently succeed in deeply reflecting his own identity as a wanderer between the two worlds - as a German pioneer of European Modernism with a close connection to the cultural legacy and spiritual tradition of the Arab world.

In his quest to passionately display and explain his world through his paintings, Marwan restricts himself to few simple and essential themes, most prevalently the head, which has in the coming years and decades become Marwan's almost sole theme. He conceives of the head as a metaphor of his world - as a landscape of the soul and as the great orb of the universe. By reiterating this image over and over, in hundreds of variations, it becomes clear that the capacity for the life of these heads is astounding; they stand for the whole body and thus for the human being in its entirety.

Almost always painting his self, these paintings are self-portraits in the sense that they are psychic profiles of the artist - there is physically little facial resemblance - although each of his paintings look similar when viewed separately. It is not until they are looked at in quick succession of each other that one realises they are in fact different. They are, in turn, the artist's 'inner faces' capturing his mental state at the time he chooses to transfer his emotions onto the canvas. This multiple personality is mirrored in the multi-dimensionality of his paintings, exemplified by the viewer's different experiences and interpretations of the reactions of his faces when viewed from one angle to the next - while simultaneously looking at this one painting, the viewer thus takes on this emotional journey through its shifts of distance and perspective.

Christie's is honoured to be offering this seminal work from the artist's oeuvre Large Head (Turned Towards the Right), painted in 1974, from the collection of Dr. Issa Alauneh in Germany. Having met while studying in Germany in the same university, the two have become dear friends. A keen supporter of Marwan, Dr. Alauneh has managed to collect several of the artist's works over the past few decades, including the infamous 99 Heads gravures, but has also written as well as translated several articles on the artist and supported many exhibitions.

This 1974 painting sees a departure from the Facial Landscape works that dominated the artist's oeuvre in the 1960s. In this work, Marwan has chosen to focus on a closer cropping of the face, showing the face as a segment as opposed to a whole flattened and moundlike head that stretched across his earlier canvases. Zooming in however, the facial close up becomes even more intimate, revealing further his tormented inner world. A shortened forehead leans on the one hand into the far depths of the painting, but at the same time remains part of the face in its almost front position, parallel and penetratingly close to the viewer, the eyes piercingly judging the eyes of the beholder. Yet, unlike his earlier works, Marwan has introduced a brighter set of tones to his palette. In fact, 1973 is often seen as the year that started the artist's electrical development, where his works and rhetoric blossomed. In Large Head (Turned Towards the Right), the face is no longer an object but has transformed into a recital of colour and light; interwoven colours in twitching masses of ribbons, strokes and dots exemplify the sense motion in the painting, as light delicately bounces of the canvas.

In this flowing brushwork and tender colouration, an extraordinary emotional language emerges, at once nuanced, but expressive, pulsating in the ability for these fleshy tones to flow into each other into a consistency that can only reference his beloved landscape. In some ways this reminds the viewer distinctly of the Qassyun mountains towering over Damascus. In turn, these faces become in themselves landscapes of their own, landscapes of the soul and mind.

The complexity behind this composition is exemplified by the artist's technique; he applies layer after layer with great patience and intensity - which acts metaphorically to highlight the multi-layered human psyche. Simultaneously portraying proximity and distance, as one moves closer to the image, it gradually blurs, morphing into a shimmering radiant field of colour that offers an exemplary insight into the inner workings of Marwan's mind.

Marwan has had more than 25 solo exhibitions throughout his artistic career in prestigious galleries and institutions around the world including Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Berlin/Beirut; Richard-Haizmann, Berlin; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; and the Museum of Modern
Art, Baghdad. He has been awarded numerous prizes and his works are featured in major public and private collections around the world, including The Tate Modern, London and The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
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