Fateh Al-Moudarres


Al Moudarres Untitled Mathaf 1500
  • Fateh Al-Moudarres
  • Untitled
  • 1962
  • Mixed media on canvas
  • 69.8 x 99.7 cm
  • QM/QF - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha - Qatar

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.

Tiffany Floyd

Biography of Fateh Al-Moudarres

  • Born 1922 in Aleppo, Syria
  • Died 1999 in Aleppo, Syria
Fateh Al-Moudarres is recognized as a leading figure in the development of modernism in Syria. His early, realist painting drew inspiration from sources within Syria, such as Christian and Muslim iconography and Assyrian antiquities. During his studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) in Rome, from 1954 to 1960, Moudarres was influenced by modern art movements, particularly Surrealism. He began to incorporate abstraction into his painting at this time, blending the traditions of Syrian art with Western techniques and stylistic developments. When he returned to Syria, Moudarres’s painting became increasingly political. From 1967 he turned from non-objective painting to social themes, critiquing the upheaval to Syrian families and social relationships wrought by modern life. He was acutely concerned about the damage to Syria’s rural population due to the agricultural crisis—a situation which forced the artist himself to move to Damascus in the 1960s. He continued his studies at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts) in Paris for three years in the 1970s. Moudarres subsequently became an influential teacher at Jāmi‘atu Dimashq (University of Damascus). Through his use of rich color coupled with thick, roughened paint, Moudarres depicted everyday people and their ordinary problems with an air of loss and mourning.