In 1962, the same year that Fateh Al-Moudarres painted this untitled canvas, he began investigating the spontaneous qualities of surrealist automatic drawing by using the cadavre exquis (“exquisite corpse”) technique adapted to painting. This practice began as a collective exercise in rendering the figure, whereby individual artists would draw a portion of the body without awareness of the whole. Thus, it was a dissociative technique meant to tap into surrealist paradigms of intuitive creation, detached from rational sight. Similarly, Al-Moudarres sought to convey the existential human condition through the visual, a realm he believed could surpass the written or spoken word, even that of an accomplished poet.
This painting features a cluster of pillar-shaped figures whose faces emerge from overlapping daubs of muted colors. Blocky hands interrupt the cylindrical forms and accentuate the impression of pressed bodies pushed against the picture plane, where they have come to meet their onlookers. Gazing beyond the frame not confrontationally, but beseechingly with a melancholic air that characterizes many of Al-Moudarres’s works, these figures appear as haunted beings, adults clutching children as they all fade into a spectral scene. The large hand in the foreground bears the stigmata-like mark of a blood-red circle. The symbolic implications are many. It has been suggested that the artist’s fascination with the constrained and expressive human form arose from his reaction to oppressive overcrowding and labor conditions in the Syrian capital of Damascus.