Born 1934, Damascus, Syria
Marwan studied Arabic literature at Damascus University from 1955 to 1957. He then travelled to Berlin to study painting under the instruction of Hann Trier, a major exponent of Art Informel, at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste from 1957 to 1963. He arrived in the German capital at the height of the Cold War, the country still reeling from the aftermath of the war, a time when contemporary artists sought a new and almost cathartic form of expression. Marwan’s exposure to Art Informel’s gestural and spontaneous expressive approach to painting broadened his understanding of European art which until his move to Berlin was largely shaped by magazine reproductions of the work of French modernist painters like Cézanne and Matisse. These experiences, coupled with the visual language of his cultural heritage, prompted the young Marwan to create deeply introspective works centred on the human figure and face – often referred to as his ‘face landscapes’ – their implicit and explicit gestures and expressions. He is one of the few artists of his generation from the Arab world to explore the genre of the self-portrait.
Although Marwan lived and worked in Germany since his arrival in 1957 – in 1973 he received a grant to study at a Cité des Arts studio in Paris for a year – he continued to keep abreast with regional current events and the political upheavals of the Arab world. In particular, a number of his works produced in the 1970s, focus on the figure of the fida’iyeen [freedom fighter], tackling the subject of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Marwan’s work can be found in over thirty-five international public collections including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Städel Museum, Frankfurt; Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden; National Museum, Damascus; Tate Modern, London; British Museum, London; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since the late seventies, he has held numerous solo exhibitions internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad, 1980; Institut du Monde Arab, Paris, 1993; and his recent shows at the Fundação de Serralves, Porto, and the Barjeel Art Foundation and Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, 2014. He lives and works in Berlin.