Christie’s is delighted to present an extremely rare work from the oeuvre of renowned Syrian painter Fateh Moudarres that exemplifies the early abstract years of his career as a painter. As one of the most sought after modern masters, with an unparalleled repertoire and fascinating artistic journey, Fateh Moudarres is considered to be a great pioneer of both technique and style. While the majority of canvases which hail from the later, more commonly known period of his artistic career, portray distinctly recognisable imagery and painterly technique, the present work offers a far more insightful visual diary of the artist’s years of experimentation. However, this piece is not only rare for its unusual composition, but it is also the product of a unique story. Painted as a gift to the owners of the Hotel Mediterraneo in Civitavecchia, Italy between 1958 and 1959. This small port city, situated 80 kilometres north-west of Rome, was visited by the artist during his time studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome at which time this quaint hotel provided refuge to the artist. This fascinating composition sheds light on a rare moment in the career and in the life of one of the Middle East’s most renowned painters.
Across the surface of these two towering canvases, the artist orchestrates a unique blend of subtle geometry with a profound use of colour. By uniting the more pronounced qualities of still life painting with the freedom of abstraction, the canvas is filled with subtle blocks of colour, compiled to create indecipherable abstract forms. On the other hand, painted floral motifs seem to embed their way amongst the thick layers of paint and into the visual lexicon of this particular work. By employing this impasto technique, the artist achieves a rich and vibrant quality from his pigments which not only exacerbate the painting’s dynamic surface texture but also pre-empt the technique that would be continued by the artist throughout his oeuvre. While his later work would go on to explore the socio-political climate of Syria in the twentieth century and its associated themes from the turbulent region, the present work uses the freedom of abstraction to achieve a greater level of spontaneity. Free from the constraints of an artist’s mature hand this present piece is a true example of youthful experimentation.
Without being openly symbolic, the artist’s colour palette of deep reds, yellows, blues, greens and browns reference his hometown of Aleppo, Syria. Forced to relocate to Aleppo from the rural village of Harita, where he had felt safe with the refuge of his mother's care, Moudarres would in turn hold very dear the memories of his native surroundings and incorporate them into his works, a reference encouraged by the authenticity of the artist’s style. The use of symbolism does not end here. The vertical nature of the canvas and the patterned application of paint can be said to draw parallels to beautifully ornamented stained glass windows of roman churches. Similarly, the stacking of these contrasting colour blocks can be seen as an early exploration of the Syrian motifs that recall the village of Maaloula, Assyrian statuary and Palmyrene frescoes that he would later introduce into his artistic vocabulary. Fusing abstracted motifs with still life painting, this experimental canvas thus has an innate sense of freedom as it divulges deep elements of the artist’s psyche.