Perhaps one of the most personal and haunting examples by Fateh Moudarres to ever appear at auction Al La'ab w al Mowt (The Play and the Dead) is a reflection of the artist's own life tragedies. Painted in 1979, Fateh applies what has become known and acknowledged to be characteristic of his style; he adopts a vocabulary that is drawn from primitive art. In his expressionistic idiom, the square shapes of the figures recall Assyrian statues and Palmyrene frescoes. Enriched with warm and vibrant colours, the characters slowly come to life, the addition of sand adding a textural quality that allows the figures to leap out of the canvas.
In this work the viewer sees two adult figures with faces of shock and despair. They hold what appears to be young children who lay rigidly across the canvas as if dead. The abundance of white in the composition hints at the purity of childhood innocence yet is also hauntingly reminiscent of the cold harshness of death.
This work, dedicated to his wife who he affectionately nicknamed Shakura was one of the few works in the artist's personal collection that he refused to sell. It is of particular meaning as it depicts the tragedy that befell his son when he was very young. While playing along a wall, supervised by a family member, the boy fell and experienced a deep concussion that rendered the boy mute for the rest of his life. Afflicted with a deep misery at an inability to express himself, the boy died at a young age, the artist often stating that he died from sadness. Equally, his only daughter was diagnosed with a heart problem that caused her to pass away when she was young. He often depicted her as a character in his canvases with very red cheeks and red hands, a reflection of the poor circulation of blood.
It is within this deeply poignant and affecting work that the viewer really sees the true mastery of Moudarres' compositions and artistic magic. Al La'ab w al Mowt (The Play and the Dead) is truly a gem amongst the Syrian master's expansive and impressive oeuvre.