One of the most critically acclaimed and highly influential artists to affect the contemporary Syrian art scene, Marwan Kassab Bachi – known simply as Marwan – was celebrated for his figurative work, most notably the concept of “face in landscape”, a term coined by Syrian poet Adonis.
Born in Damascus, Marwan Kassab Bachi (1934–2016) studied Arabic Literature at Damascus University and attended the Hochschule für Bildende Künste after moving to Berlin in the late 1950s. In 1963, he graduated from their Department of Painting and then continued to work as a lecturer there until 2000. Combining these two worlds, Marwan was influenced by German expressionism and the Neue Wilden artists whilst at the same time retaining his Syrian identity by responding to Arab political struggles and human rights issues.
Rigorous in his technique, Marwan was is known for his faces, which morph into undulating landscapes – a theme that continued throughout his career – and achieved by layering coats of paint, evoking the subtleties of skin, using only four or five hues. Repetitively exploring the head as a topography, he felt that he was “excavating” these sites and expressed on many occasions that he “painted souls.” Part of the Syrian National movement and pan-Arab imagery, Marwan’s work is linked to the larger conversation between land and identity that has historically been associated with Sufi poetry.
Marwan’s work can be found in public collections worldwide, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; Darat al Funun, Amman; Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; National Museum Damascus; Tate Modern, London; British Museum, London; The Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah; Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Barjeel Art Foundation Collection.