Having heard his name among various artists and having researched his work; a man full of emotion, capable of delivering even the smallest of sensations through his work; I finally got to interview the remarkable Adel Dawood. As I was listening to him speak, I appreciated how he communicated like a true artist, with a voice full of emotion lightened with humor.
Having taken up drawing during the 5th grade, he continued to later on participate in numerous drawing activities and painting competitions. As a result, he was his school’s most achieved and renowned artist.Being in an environment that encouraged him to experiment his talent was an advantage he had when growing up. He found himself interacting with people who enjoyed drawing and painting. The catalyst to his passion for art started when he watched his uncle and cousin. He was ‘’was impressed by the family standard.”
© Barbara Süss
Once he was part of the academic art world Adel had a chance to study other artists work and fully understand it which permitted a flow of inspiration that in turn influenced his work “After ingoing the Fine Art Center I was fascinated by Barsoum Barsouma one of the very important Syrian artists” he declares an admiration towards Barsoum’s work followed by his appreciation for Van Gogh.
“Nostalgic for the past, nostalgic of all the memories”
As a Syrian refugee in Austria, once he moved to Vienna he shared a room with 9 people struggling at first, trying to adapt. Yet the main difficulty he sees is that he gets to visit all the cities of the world but his own. “This on its own is a tragedy”. The difficulties Adel faced were external to the frame of his atelier however; very clearly reflecting the high caliber of his paintings. The late ‘Malva’, Omar Hamid, one of the great artists, was a dear friend of Adel’s in whom he sought liberation. He says: “He was my father, my uncle. He was really affectionate, he used to tell me Adel don’t forget you’re an artist”. His ongoing mourning of the loss of his mentor has been translated and projected in Adel’s art work one way or another.
After a little while in the city luck turned his way; a project was taking place called ‘’The Future of Painting’’. The idea was to promote contemporary artists residing in Austria. Numerous artists applied to this program amongst whom was Adel who had been selected with another 21 artists chosen out of 750. However, it wasn’t all due to luck for it was his talent that distinguished him amongst the rest. This helped market Adel’s effort permitting the galleries to witness his work.
” I was subconsciously working on my observations”
© Barbara Süss
He classifies his work under ‘New Expressionism’. When I asked him how his style evolved after estrangement and when he was back home he simply said “You don’t realize it, it’s the state of mind and the place that change, it’s the place that will have an effect on your work in a way or another” When in Syria, his work circled around the set of Ramadiat, as he named it which was related to the houses and the atmosphere in “Sham” as he calls his hometown. He was affected by the place, the region and its colors, in that period he mostly used a color that represented the place yellow, red or green
Adel did not realize to which degree he was evolving, to him he was just adapting to his environment, “I was just working at my present state”. As an inquisitive illustrator he believes that research helps building ones knowledge “studying & exploring is what will help your growth” was his way of putting it.
When asked about the most important period in his artistic career, he did not pin point one specific time frame and instead replied “each period has its importance to me”. Moving to Beirut was his first time leaving Syria, he sensed a certain confusion which has been mirrored in his work, and he believes that everything new is important. “If it scares you then it’s of a significance”. He believes that the leading epoch is yet to come.
© Barbara Süss
“The receiver is clever, he knows where my vulnerabilities are”
There are two types of art work, either sensational or realistic. As Adel experienced working with both when he started through art school he chose to continue down the path with an art that triggers emotion to the spectator. I reveled by how he called his spectators receivers as he had a message to deliver, wanting them to understand him trying to express it through his work. An abundance of thoughts in his head attempting to be lain on a white canvas. He believes that the spectator will see through his vulnerabilities when looking at his pieces. Through these intricate works of art, they would be able to see the frustration he fostered when operating.
“There is an internal mania that needs to be engaged in a contemporary artistic way”. He appreciates when the spectator sees his inner thoughts, with a large volume of emotion and peace, with an infinite abundance of “whys”? “I’m not giving a solution but expressing my sadness in my work “
“There are things lovelier than war, there’s art, there are colors, there are feelings” saying it with a voice full of passion he declares the message he would like to deliver through his paintings. “I can’t say it with a couple of phrases” he struggled, not finding enough words to express himself.
Entering another world when working on his art, “Sometimes I put music but I can’t hear it, a parting occurs between me and the outside world” facing a tough situation at times searching for responses in his work “There is an energy that needs to be letdown”. He likes to experiment and try different things with his canvases stating how “sometimes you don’t know how your work can surprise you “
“You see great important artists that did not necessarily get the academic formation. The workshop is your primary tutor”
When I asked Adel about his opinion on artists that didn’t go to a certain faculty of arts but built themselves on their own, he expressed his awe with these artists in saying that “it’s not really all about the academic system”. When he decided to enter a school of arts it was to get a broader understanding of art; however, he cited that it was not all about the art faculty and that they have a certain advantage. In his opinion, those with an academic art education have a higher interaction with the art world which helps them become better with the technicalities of engaging their work. “This matter is subjective really, it’s all about the outcome”.
© Barbara Süss
When it comes to the Western world ‘’vs’’ the Middle Eastern in appreciating art and artists, Adel referred to the last 5 years in the Middle East as having had important exhibitions; however, in the west when it comes to the market and galleries he remarked that “it’s been there for ages, so of course it’s more prominent in west”. Facing a problem when he moved to the west he expressed how “they don’t take into consideration artist who had important exhibitions in the east, what’s important to them are the galleries you presented in, Europe and the US”. The prices of the two markets differ which causes a problem to the artist when trying to adapt their rates when moving from one the other.
“Sometimes the work is splendid, but it doesn’t get the attention it needs”
He explains how unfortunately, the galleries depend on the market, they take the art that can be sold, they consider the artistic value of a painting but sometimes it just isn’t enough. “Only few galleries take the risk with an artist”. Working at his own pase he never changes his style to please, never transforming his art to something that can be commercialized according to the needs of the market. According to Adel, “it would be a catastrophe if he worked depending on attitudes outside of the workshop” not liking the idea of becoming a brand. “It’s all about what you want” he said. Adel needs the freedom of experimenting and varying his style that certain galleries might restrict. “There needs to be change or else it’ll become a brand, and if it becomes a brand then its commerce not art”. Even when facing difficulties when selling his art, he confirms that persistence is key since after all, “we are paintings ourselves in the end”
Adel expresses his love for Vienna, its culture & its relations “It resembles a lot El Sham” when he left it for a while he found himself missing it “The Austrians are lovely people”. But for future plans Adel dreams of settling between Vienna and a Middle Eastern country, preferably his hometown El Sham “A country with sunshine” he says amusingly “here in Vienna the sun was out for 3 days, and I feel bad for not going out. He would ‘’like to become like a migrating bird spending his winters is in the east and his summers in Vienna”.
Through our conversation, Adel makes you feel at ease when speaking to him, throwing a joke here and there and by the end of our talk he admits he himself got a little anxious, not knowing if he expressed himself right through the words he chose, giving you a little insight of his humble inner self.
I inquired about his future projects trying to get a little scoop. There is little talk about him going to exhibit in Miami which is yet to be confirmed. But what is for certain is that he has an art fair taking place in Denver and one that is to occur in Copenhagen and Bahrain.
Translated from Arabic
Photos by Barbara Süss
Lilya Chigara is the project assistant at SAFIR. A Master’s student at Paris Sorbonne Abu Dhabi majoring in Banking & Finance. She is a lover of history and large-scale adventures.