Essam Marouf‘s paintings are divine portraits that draw from his Egyptian heritage and the early Renaissance masters, Giotto and Piero della Francesca, each picture dreamlike, as if he’s seeking to capturing an ephemeral spirit, an aspiration, a perfect beauty.
Often using his wife as a muse Marouf paints fast, his brushstrokes light, nearly invisible, the backgrounds monochrome, the figures minimal, iconographic. These women look to be in prayer, a stained glass reflection that radiates peace, harmony and belonging. We can’t touch them, they are beyond us, living in the light between this world and the next, the past and the present, physical reality and the dream world. In many ways his portraits represent fragments of memories, of people we have seen before but can’t recall when or where, each evoking an emotional response, a solitary impression, a haunting vista of what was or what might become.
From the little I know of him Marouf sees painting as a spiritual journey. He believes in the transcendental nature of art and the universality of a picture, the process of making bringing humanity together rather than separating it. His work living outside political and social constraints in a space that embraces all peoples, all cultures. A he says himself:
I see my art as more universal. It’s mixed from Egypt, Italy, Holland and the world. It is not a cultural statement, it is a human story
It’s this sensitivity and his deep connection to humanity, as well as his aesthetic that draws from North African and Western art history, that makes Marouf one of the key artists in contemporary Egyptian art.
You can currently see his new show ‘ Discovering Visions Within a Trapped Memory’ at The Gallery Ward, 6 street, Al Ouoz, Interchange 1, Al Manara, Dubai, United Arab Emirates until 29th April, 2014