When I received an invitation on Safwan Dahoul solo exhibition (A Real Dream) in Dubai earlier this month, I thought to myself “I must go”! And so I booked the ticket & flew to Dubai for two nights just to attend (A Real Dream).
Luckily I got the chance to meet Safwan for the second time in my life and asked for an interview. To me this was my dream since last July & it came true! As promised, Al Maha brings you an exclusive interview with one of Middle East pioneer artists, Safwan Dahoul, sharing his Real Dream , where it is taking him, the secret of his artworks strength and much more!
Al Maha: In the beginning, let’s talk about your latest exhibition (A Real Dream) a continues series since 1982… How it developed & what changed in it?
Safwan: I had no plan for real dream at the beginning, it was very innocent and now I don’t know how innocent it is. In art, you start with something but u don’t know how it will end where it will take you or when it’ll stop. Things don’t have to be too madrosa, when you start something, sudden events come your way, blends with what you had on mind creating an outcome that may be surprising to yourself.
How far it changed depends on what Changes I went through. Safwan in 84 isn’t the same in 2011 life personality circumstances. All that is reflected on my artworks and it is essential, as long as the artist lives and interacts with his surroundings. Frankly i enjoy listening to how others see my artworks more than my explanation. I don’t necessarily have to be the one who describes it or force an obtained description on viewers, because they will add something to it.
Al Maha: How far you think (A Real Dream) will go?
Safwan: It is a continues expanding project. You see I am very stubborn and would love to see where this journey will take me. There’s something I am heading to & at the same time, that thing is grabbing me towards it. This process creates surprises one needs. An artist is usually asked “what’s new?” I feel the artist doesn’t present “something new” to people but to himself, in other words he should ask himself first what’s the new thing he’ll present .. The first challenge is to himself then to others.
Al Maha: I was amazed by one particular painting, the Numbers painting! Tell me about it…
Safwan: Well when I start on a painting, I don’t have a complete perspective of how it will end. But the small perspective that I have builds on the artwork later on, a start point. In the beginning, I first started with drawing the empty squares – a shape that I like and in my old studio I had a couch that was locked in my memory. I found myself bringing it out in this painting that answers a frequent question “why squares?” and explains my other artworks. It symbolizes time.
Al Maha: What do u think of abstract in Art?
Safwan: I work on one subject, where you need to put all possibilities .. This makes me ask a lot of questions very beneficial for me. Beauty of discovering , challenge “can I work on one subject?” “discover new aspects in it”.
I don’t want to prove that I paint, I want to discover where I am going. Then comes the technical challenge; color degradation , new coloring techniques. Which is very essential to the painting because the technique brings out your idea or subject you thought of, the medium to cascade your thoughts on canvas and then visually to people. You can give your painting a million names but it’s meaningless if your techniques where weak. Technique plays a big part in the success or failure of the artwork and supports the philosophic part.
Al Maha: So your artwork is a combination of emotion & strong techniques?
Safwan: Exactly! Many artists get me wrong when I emphasize on the “professional” part which is the techniques. Each painting should include a large amount of professionalism, a 10% of emotions will make it great, 90% of feelings & emotions will make it unreal. Because you need to obtain some of your feelings for upcoming projects, you can’t pour all your emotions in one artwork unless it is you want to stop there.
Emotions leads your techniques; it is reflected in how you paint, color mixture & harmony. You don’t have to point it out if your techniques are strong enough.
Al Maha: Speaking of techniques, a lot of artists are using mix media, whereas we see Safwan still using the “classical” way -acrylic or oil paints- Why you don’t follow the trend?
Safwan: Once you start working on the painting; you choose the technical direction, whether it is paints, mix media, collage…etc. It is not a matter of right or wrong, it’s what you prefer. And person’s preferences are just like his emotions, they define your techniques.
I want to freeze a moment of my life in an artwork, just like photographers with their cameras. I always admired photography, and that is why I prefer my artworks to be flat like pictures. My artworks are not only paintings, they are pictures, reflection of moments in life. Through exhibitions, I open my heart with images of my life, painted not photographed.
In other words, I want to cascade the precisest details of my life through simple means. I tend to simplicity, visual feelings not straight forward and love to spend all my time in it.
Al Maha: Is this why we don’t see Safwan participating in too many exhibitions per year?
Safwan: We are not in a race, each artist should bring the best of him/her whenever they can. I feel I am working within the maximum energy scale I set for myself. But I don’t prefer rushing, art is not something commercial or consuming, or it will lose it’s value especially for the ones who anticipate your work.
Al Maha: How did 2011 events and changes effect your recent artwork?
Safwan: As an artist & individual, I am a witness of what’s surrounding me. The artworks were done during all the happening events, so it was effected from it. But I prefer to deliver what I felt indirectly, i want to paint the color of a feared soul rather than an obvious scared human. You sense the fear of tomorrow because non of us know where we are heading.
Al Maha on Safwan Dahoul
The artwork as a whole is captivating, yet when you look closer, it is deep! I noticed that Safwan is very detail-oriented, there isn’t a space for randomness, even the plain space has a meaning. In the details you find different symbols, I personally interpreted some with “peace”. Maybe the hidden indirect message of Safwan latest artworks is the hope of peace beneath the concerned eyes.
Technical wise, being detail-oriented gave Safwan artwork accuracy in dimensions, portions & colors mixture. Keeping it “simple” with only paints on large canvas uplifts the artwork from “trendy” to “timeless-value”.
Wish all the success to Safwan Dahoul & an exhibition in Kuwait soon.