Sabhan Adam, recent works

From 06 May to 25 July 2014

After a break of almost 6 years, Syrian painter and graphic artist Sabhan Adam returns to the gallery Polad-Hardouin for a fifth personal exhibition of paintings and drawings. The whole gallery space will be devoted to him. As fierce and energetic as ever, Sabhan Adam has gone a long way since our last encounter, with a growing number of exhibitions in Europe but espe-cially in the Levant, where he enjoys the status of a star artist. The last six years of his life were rife with events: a terrible car accident, which made him even more aware of the frailty and beauty of life, but also a union crowned with the birth of a little girl.

“In order to paint, I need to be angry”, said Sabhan Adam in an interview a few years ago. This admission resonates even more deeply today, as the painter, now living in Damascus, is a daily witness to the civil war that is tearing his country apart. Gradually growing accustomed to the sound of bombs, machine guns, and military airplanes flying over his city, he now puts his life in the hands of fate, and pursues his artistic activity with perseverance and a feeling of emergency. His work, however, takes no political side, but represents the earth-shattering exposure of a humanity ridden with uncertainty and torn between despair and wonder, power and misery.

Sabhan adds: “My paintings are addressed to those who have gone through difficult times and injustice”. They are variations on a primordial scene, constantly recommenced and different each time: a character stands – alone, most of the time – in a hieratic pose against the barren background of the canvas or paper. Trapped inside their tight frame, these hybrid creatures often have no other choice but to stare at the viewer while conveying the disenchantment of those who have seen it all. A number of variations come to counterpoint this scene: a man sit-ting on a bed, a head sticking out of his shoulder – reminiscent of the uncanny composition of Munch’s Puberty. We also find a child with a grown-up face, in unstable balance in a baby-walker on a rope: Sabhan’s daughter has become his favourite source of inspiration. Whatever the medium, Sabhan Adam prepares his own pigments according to a complex and secret recipe, never revealed to anyone. He readily includes additional materials such as bitumen and jewellery. The tangle of dark lines composing the faces and bodies of his creatures clashes with the glimmering opulence of their attire. The contrast between Eastern lux-ury and the harshness of the lines is inevitably unsettling, while also raising many questions. Uncanny and uncompromising, the works of Sabhan Adam speak to our dark side.

Sabhan Adam was born in 1972 in Al-Hasakah, a village at a few kilometres from the Iraqi border, where he taught himself to paint at the age of 17. He also got interested in philosophy, poetry, and sociology. Since his first stay at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 1999, he is regularly exhibited in France. In 2003, he joined the gallery Polad-Hardouin (back then galerie idées d’artistes), which organised several monographic exhibitions of his work and supported the first monograph about him (Editions Fragments). This will be his fifth personal exhibition at the gallery. Sabhan Adam currently lives in Damascus, Syria. His works are ex-hibited everywhere in the Near East, as well as in Europe and the US.


Watch the video of the exhibition