An Interview with Acclaimed Artist Jaber Alwan
Ahmad Minkara of DIA Magazine speaks with artist Jaber Alwan.
Your work is centered around women. Who is the archetypal woman you keep in mind in your work?
“I am not the first one to paint women. Women are ubiquitous in the history of painting beginning with the Greeks…. I document the female in all her states: pregnancy, sadness, happiness, mother, dancing, contemplative mode. I emphasize the female aesthetically and I also highlight the erotic aspect of a woman. I use all the colors to paint my women. I tried to use each color to reflect the state that she is in.”
What was your relationship with late Saudi writer Abdul Rahman Munif, who wrote a book about you?
“Munif is the one who convinced me that the Arab intellectuals, artists, writers in diaspora should come back to the Arab world everyone now and then, so the people could get read and appreciate their work. I listened to him and I started frequenting the Arab world more, and I started having more exhibitions. Finally, Munif wrote a biography and a literary interpretation of my paintings called Jaber & The Music of Colors.”
Can you tell us about your relationship with the late Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous?
“Wannous has said, “The color of Jaber Alwan is like a dream that transforms the chemistry of the human body. A stream of rainbow colors and a stream of enchanting lights. An enigmatic talent that cannot stop creating!”
“I used to attend his plays in Iraq in the sixties. But, through my trips to Damascus, I developed a strong friendship with him. I spent so much time with him during his last days, while he was ill. While sitting next to him, I used to paint paintings based on his plays especially his play Transformations.”
“While he was sick, he used to read my paintings he said, “your paintings alter my body chemistry.” Then, I used to only want to paint for the sake of Saadallah. Before he passed a while, he wrote an exquisite preface for one of my catalogs”
You have painted in Baghdad, Rome, Cairo, and Damascus… are you an art nomad? What draws you to each of these cities?
“I studied art in Baghdad. I painted there for a little, but I immigrated to Rome at a very early age. Rome and Italy embraced me in many different ways. I was able to invent myself as an artist, say, and sharpen my artistic acumen. However, I did not restrict myself to painting in Rome. I traveled to many other cities where I painted. The paintings were different from one city to another because of the change of the environment, the light and the colors. Painting in London, Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus allowed me to have a completely different perspective where I was able to document and capture the human condition in those paintings.”
Thank you very much for speaking with us.
Ahmad K. Minkara
POSTED ON: OCT 8, 2010