'I am trapped by one dream after another'.
(The artist quoted in "Arab artists: Safwan Dahoul paints his poignant dream" in Al Arabiya News, 03 October 2012).
Since 1982, Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul has produced a large body of works in which he explores the reoccurring subject matter of a dream and titles all of his works Dream, except with the addition of a number to note his progression in the series. It is almost always a depiction of a despairing woman isolated within the dark confines of the canvas the artist chooses.
Dominated by black, white and muted tones, Dahoul's oeuvre explores the relationship between the figure and its background, between the human being and space. His muted choice of colour references the lack of colour, as a result of current events, reflected in his beloved home country and in his new adopted city of Dubai whereby there is the diminishing differentiation between the sand and the sky, all reflected in the one neutral colour of beige. Dahoul has, in recent years, continued to explore these single neutral colours of whites, blacks and greys as a way to completely trim the irrelevant talkative elements in his paintings and allow the viewer to focus on the protagonist, which he has often said is a reflection of his own self.
In Dream 62, Dahoul has chosen to portray a despairing downcast figure over three panels. In the first panel she walks alone, her face masked by her introverted body, her eyes marked by the dark black kohl lines that frame empty black spaces. Dahoul has often mentioned that he feels a deep rooted connection with the Ancient Egyptians and it is clear in Dream 62 he has referenced Egyptology and particularly death masks in ancient royal tombs with the depiction of white detail-less faces. As the protagonist's eyes remain black and bare, the viewer senses that something is hidden, a sense of sorrow and death that resonates in the painting. She is in fact the artist's representation of a young and innocent bride - a reference to Syria today - who in the shadows of the night remains scared, shy and alone in the darkness. The wrinkled texture represents the cloud of noise and events that are skewing the reality around her, suffocating her slowly as she treks through the night. Through this play of dimensionality, it is within the confines of these three panels between the two dimensional and the three dimensional virtual vortex that she hides her deep emotions and secrets.
In the second panel, she is joined by another mother-like figure, who with a piercing look draws the viewer into the composition, cutting through the creased haze that hovers subtly on the surface, but she soon leaves her alone. It is not until the final panel, where the main character discovers a tiny source of light, a light of hope that emanates from the darkness. It is reflective of the artist's positive thoughts towards the current crisis in the region and particularly in his beloved country, a reference that despite all this darkness, hope and dreams come from the tiniest of sources.