Ziad Dalloul is a pioneer of contemporary Syrian art and is recognised as a leading painter and printmaker in the Arab world. The Paris-based artist's first solo exhibition in the UAE, titled Celebrations of the Absent, features a series of large-scale oil paintings, works on paper and limited-edition etchings.
The etchings on display are from The Book of Cities, Dalloul's famous collaboration with Syrian poet Adonis, where he created visual interpretations of Adonis's poems about important cities around the world. The oil paintings are a continuation of his exploration of the relationship between man and nature.
In his paintings, the artist juxtaposes domestic scenes, such as tables set for a feast, with flowing waterfalls and lush greenery to create beautiful, surreal landscapes. By blurring the line between the inside and the outside, Dalloul comments on our growing distance from nature and our inner selves, and makes us think about what is missing from our urban lifestyle and environment.
"Celebrations of the Absent is not about celebrating the absence of people. Instead, the people who cannot be seen in the paintings are celebrating. Through the household objects, I have tried to impart a warm, lived-in feeling to the paintings so that you can feel the presence of the people who inhabit these interiors, despite their absence. The idea behind juxtaposing rooms and furniture with nature is to transport the exterior into the interior, making it warm and intimate and taking the interior outdoors to connect it with nature. I want viewers to think about this philosophical process because I believe that, rather than providing answers, the role of art is to make us question," Dalloul says.
The artist's use of colour and play of light and shadow draw viewers deep into his intriguing landscapes. And although there are no people in the paintings, one can sense strong emotions in the canvases.