Gaza artist names deeply personal show after youngest daughter

Untitled 2014 by Shafik Radwan, acrylic on canvas.

Zawyeh Gallery

Maram III, the latest show at Ramallah’s Zawyeh art gallery, comprises a collection of 40 paintings by Gaza-based artist Shafik Radwan.

In a statement, Radwan expresses a contemplative and questioning approach to his subjects:

Unintentionally, my paintings end up with different faces each time, every face tells a different story. Random human faces embody and inhabit my artworks for no obvious reason. Is it because life is about humans after all? Is it because humans are the source of happiness, sadness, optimism, pessimism, laughter and tears? 

The highly personal content of the works in this exhibition contrasts with some of Radwan’s earlier images, which have been featured on Palestinian political posters since the 1960s.

Born in 1941 in Najd, a Palestinian village which was destroyed in 1948 to build the town of Sderot in present-day Israel, Radwan studied in Cairo and Moscow. His work has been shown around the world and forms part of the permanent collections at the Baghdad Museum of Modern Art and Moscow State Museum of Oriental Art.

He has also held senior positions in Derna University in Libya and at al-Aqsa University in Gaza, as well as being director at the fine arts department in the Palestinian culture ministry.

Art critic and writer Federica Bueti, who contributed the text for the exhibition catalog, expands on Radwan’s sense of his current work as an exploration of humanity.

Bueti sees the the artist’s canvas as a space where he can “meet” those he loves in a place where “aesthetic values, personal stories and social and political concerns coalesce.”

“They materialize, and melt away. People painted in the light of the heat. The landscape reflects their dreams, their strong faces. Their features are familiar but as they are foreign, universal. They embody the universe.”

Indeed, the intimacy of Radwan’s subjects can be sensed in how the exhibition is named after Radwan’s youngest daughter Maram.

Maram III runs until 1 September at Zawyeh Art Gallery, Ramallah.


Sarah Irving

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Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.