Marwan Kassab Bachi - widely known by his mononym, Marwan, was born in Damascus in 1934. After studying Arabic literature at the University of Damascus from 1955 to 1957, he moved to Berlin where he studied under Hann Trier, an exponent of Art Informel at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, going on to graduate in 1963.Read More
From the earliest stages of his artistic career, Marwan captured the dynamism of the human body in his painting and printmaking practices. Contorted, surrealistic bodies expressively conveyed the plethora of joys and torments of man's earthly experience. By the 1970s, the artist began to increasingly focus on the human head/ face, the subject matter that he became most celebrated for. Marwan's disproportionate, often detached heads became distinctive landscapes which captured the essence of the subject's inner depths and emotions. Revealing a rich topography of spontaneous, raw expression, these works, often referred to as the artist's Kopf or 'face' landscapes skillfully delved into the rich mysteries of the human psyche. Utilising the crevices and contours of the human face Marwan rejected any form of idealisation, allowing themes of disillusionment and the search for identity to take precedent and dictate the outcome of the work, elevating the subjects to more esoteric heights. Although the artist did execute portraits and self-portraits, most of these works were anonymous, functioning as more universal portraits of humanity.
Drawing from his native culture and studies in Arabic literature, elements of Sufi philosophy and poetry permeated Marwan's work, adding layers of transcendental meaning through his repetitious painting practice. The artist also maintained ties to the modernist art movements of the Arab world and he often contributed illustrations to the publications of writers and poets such as his fellow Syrian, Adonis.
In 1980 Marwan became a permanent professor in the Painting Department at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin where he taught until 2002. In 1994 the artist earned the distinction of becoming the first Arab member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. From 1999 - 2003 he was brought on as the director of Darat al Funun's Summer Academy in Amman, furthering his enormous influence on multiple generations of artists in the Middle East and the diaspora.
In 2016, Marwan passed away in Berlin at the age of 82. A selection of his work was posthumously shown in the Central Pavilion of Joys and Fears, in the Giardini at the 57th Venice Biennale, the following year.
Marwan's work can be found in the public collections of numerous institutions around the world including: Tate Modern, London; British Museum, London; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; Städel Museum, Frankfurt; Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah; Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, Amman; Darat al Funun, Amman and the National Museum of Damascus.