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Syrian artist Mouteea Murad’s vivid, spiritual canvases are geometric mosaics in which squares, triangles and circles intersect, overlap and collapse upon each other. Arabesques with constructivist visions and minimalist divisions juxtapose order and chaos, while illuminated shapes and bold lines define multidimensional space. Influenced by his belief that contemporary abstraction is rooted in the logic and science of Islamic thought, Murad’s most recent series, Trials, seeks to extract the beautiful and sacred by reconfiguring abstraction through reference to the multifarious traditions of Islamic art. Striving for completeness and harmony, his compositions suggest a divine presence in the world. Born in 1977 in Homs, Syria, Mouteea Murad lives and works in Cairo. His work is housed in private and public collections internationally, including the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. Selected solo exhibitions include Ayyam Gallery Beirut (2011); Ayyam Gallery DIFC, Dubai (2011); Ayyam Gallery Damascus (2010).

Today, the state of our Arab world is heartbreaking, mindshattering, and the state of my country is impossible to describe even if I write for years... So today, where am I in relation to this, and where is my artwork from what is happening? In my studio, I try to heal my soul and cure it from falling into this depressing and sorrowful state. As for my artworks, I am thankful to god that I possess images in my imagination and ideas about beauty that I can implement over several years. As for what my influences are at the moment, there are many details that are very simple. For example, seeing doves in the morning, a tree in my studio’s garden blossoming, flourishing and colouring, etc. These details leave the biggest impact on me and keep me optimistic on a daily basis. This past year that I’ve spent in Egypt, there have been many things that influenced me; my wife’s patience, my children playing happily and my parents’ satisfaction, as well as my yearning for all that is beautiful in my country and those whom I love back home. This all inspires me and gives me strength. As for the effect that my works will have on my audience or what it expresses, I would like to bring joy and happiness, if possible, through my works to someone, rather than conveying the misery and burdens of this day and age. - Mouteea Murad

Artist Statement Since my graduation from university to 2006, I have created works with expressive tendencies. At the time, my artwork was expressive and critical, depicting my hatred towards the tyrannical injustices and my contempt for an enemy that planted misery and oppression in our souls. I spent years on visual and philosophical research until I found myself struggling and my existence shaken. With every step forward, I was propelled through a tunnel that personified my works, which were characterised by destroyed and frightening, anxious, ugly characters. However, the developing events of my personal life and a belief that the message an artist conveys to humanity can change reality towards a better future and have a positive impact on people’s souls, pushed me to move towards the opposite of black and grey, and all that these hues signify in hatred and selfishness. This was a departure from creating compositions that are painful for the audience and emotionally draining. I began the search for love, goodness, and joy and attempted to affect the viewer positively through nice moments and simple, beautiful memories.

Mouteea Murad’s vibrant canvases are a testament to his varied extensive trials. He considers his works a perpetual series of trials, as he is in a perpetual state of exploration and reflection. He explains that all of these trials are his attempt at finding a sense of balance. His compositions are abstracted in an almost digitalized way, reflecting years of acquired technical proficiency and mathematical and visual precision. Highly concerned for the perplexing state of affairs in Syria and residing in Cairo with Egypt’s present unrest, Murad counters this stress and depression and works towards a state of emotional balance with his bright palettes. He explains that his artistic philosophy can be summarised as a conversation with God and that his artworks can be considered a form of prayer. The influences of several great schools of Modern Art are present in his pieces; Abstract Expressionism, Cubism, Constructivism and Geometric Abstraction. This influence extends far beyond the visual qualities as Murad’s philosophical beliefs regarding his artworks are reminiscent of Wassily Kandinsky’s 1912 treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In his compositions, he relies on colour to evoke particular emotions based on the same colour theory that Kandinsky discussed at length. “To let the eye stray over a palette, splashed with many colours, produces a dual result. In the first place one receives a purely physical impression, one of pleasure and contentment at the varied and beautiful colours. The eye is either warmed or else soothed and cooled. But these physical sensations can only be of short duration. They are merely superficial and leave no lasting impression, for the

soul is unaffected. But although the effect of the colours is forgotten when the eye is turned away, the superficial impression of varied colour may be the starting point of a whole chain of related sensations...Whether the psychic effect of colour is a direct one, or whether it is the outcome of association, is perhaps open to question. The soul being one with the body, the former may well experience a psychic shock, caused by association acting on the latter. For example, red may cause a sensation analogous to that caused by flame, because red is the colour of flame. A warm red will prove exciting, another shade of red will cause pain or disgust through association with running blood. In these cases colour awakens a corresponding physical sensation, which undoubtedly works upon the soul.� - Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Murad seeks to reflect the state of love he experiences through colour. As Kandinsky described, he utilises colour to awaken a corresponding physical sensation. By employing particular colour relationships, the artist sets a serene atmosphere for the viewer, which is rendered more relaxing by the horizontality of his compositions. His evolution as an artist through a journey of trials is reflected through the gradual stages of abstraction in his compositions. Murad’s launching point was winning the Shabab Ayyam Competition for emerging artists in 2007. His early works were psychologically charged and emotional. In his series of portraits from 2006, the characters are haunting and their monochrome tone give the works an unearthly quality. In his attention to detail, they are surreal manifestations of his imagination with very clear conceptual roots.

Murad explains that his abrupt departure from expressive, representational work to abstraction was directly influenced by his teaching career. He was highly affected by his pupils and they way he taught them about colour relationships and the enjoyment of art. To Murad, a work of art consists of colours and lines, and he pays close attention to what he calls ‘the principles of the painting’, carefully considering the picture plane. As early as 2008, he began to break up his canvases geometrically, with linear shapes beginning to emerge. In his ‘trials’, he explores combining several abstract compositions with Islamic principles of design, creating a bricolage of his ‘techniques’ of abstraction. Gradually, his degradation of the picture plane using geometric patterns evolves into lines. This journey of degradation is reminiscent of photoshop grids and the mechanical degradation of the image that is prominent in this day and age. In the same way that Mark Rothko sought to immerse his viewer in colour and the immensity of his canvases, Mouteea Murad seeks to encompass his viewer in an aura of ease and calm transcendence through his horizontal lines. Through his titles, he compels his viewer to see his compositions in a certain light, imposing a dominant mood and adding an almost philosophical dimension to his planes of abstractions. His horizontal lines flirt with the vivid colours of springtime in A Date with Spring, showcasing Murad’s ultimate stage of abstraction combined with his love for nature.

Trial No. 86; Vision in the Blue Dream 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 87; Colours from Paradise 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 88; Love in the Light of the Desert 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 89; The Flowers in the Sky 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 90; In the Middle of a Warm Night 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 91; When Spring Blooms 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 92; A Date with Spring 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 200 cm

Trial No. 93; Moments from Childhood 2013 Acrylic on canvas 100 x 200 cm

Trial No. 94; Eastern Lines 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 100 cm

Trial No. 95; Eastern Lines 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 100 cm

Trial No. 96; Eastern Lines 2013 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 100 cm

Ayyam Gallery

Founded by collectors and cousins Khaled and Hisham Samawi in Damascus in 2006, Ayyam Gallery sought to nurture Syria’s burgeoning and dynamic contemporary art scene through landmark non-profit initiatives such as the Shabab Ayyam Project, an incubator for emerging artists. Expansion into Beirut and Dubai enabled Ayyam Gallery to broaden its scope from the promotion of work by Syrian artists to those from the wider Middle East region. In doing so, Ayyam Gallery has established itself as one of the foremost exponents of Middle Eastern contemporary art to the international community. Today, Ayyam Gallery is recognized as a leading cultural voice in the region, representing a roster of Arab and Iranian artists with an international profile and museum presence. A number of non-commercial exhibitions, as well as the launch of Ayyam Publishing, Ayyam Editions, and The Young Collectors Auction, have further succeeded in showcasing the work of Middle Eastern artists with the aim of educating a wider audience about the art of this significant region. Ayyam Gallery Damascus currently functions as a studio and creative haven for artists who remain in the wartorn city. In early 2013, Ayyam Gallery launched new spaces in London and Jeddah.

Ayyam Gallery

Mouteea Murad  

'A Date with Spring' Exhibition Catalogue