ArtTalks is pleased to announce the duo exhibition of Sabhan Adam | Hossam Dirar: Beauty and The Beast, their first exhibition at the Gallery. Syrian-born artist Sabhan Adam (1973) and Egyptian-born artist Hossam Dirar (1978) challenge universal notions of beauty and ugliness through the art of portraiture. Each artist presents their perception of individuality by bringing out whatever is common with the rest of humanity. For Sabhan Adam, it is ugly. For Hossam Dirar, it is beauty.


Internationally-acclaimed Sabhan Adam obsessively explores the overwhelming pains of the world and depicts the harsh reality of living in its most stirring animism. Partially human, partially beast, his stunning creatures, possessed with human anguish, are rich in primal brutality. The truth is harsh for humanity as a whole, and Adam is convinced there is no sense in attempting to soften the blow. “When there is so much pain inside you and around you, it is impossible just to draw flowers and birds.” Instead, Adam paints male figures endlessly, hauntingly, and rebelliously to challenge societies’ superficial notions of beauty and undress human weaknesses such as vanity and denial.  Grabbing us by the throat, each figure captivates, appeals monopolizes the mind. At times, their faces are tormented with pain, reminding us of Adam’s agonizing circumstances back home and in our region at large. Other times, the figures are confident, cynical, upbeat, and almost arrogant, as though defying circumstances. Sabhan Adam succeeds in turning grotesque and monstrous into extraordinary immortal humans with infinite compassion of beauty. 

On the other extreme of the pendulum, Hossam Dirar celebrates beauty. Combining fragmented images of faces, at times of the whole body, Dirar paints chaotic, impulsive, and richly multi-layered texturized palettes to express individual identity. Selected as one of the twelve emerging artists of great promise worldwide by Saatchi, chief curator in their series ‘Invest in Art’ in 2013, Dirar resuscitates the two-thousand-year-old art of the Egyptian Fayoum portraits. And while the Fayoum portraits were created to preserve the memory of each individual in the closest way possible, Dirar’s portraits are invented identities borrowed from an instantaneous stolen glance. Each work depicts an anonymous woman Dirar met – at a café, in the street, at an airport. He conceives his work as a re-interpretation of his memory, of that brief encounter, overlapping between the multi-cultural characters of where they met and his personal take of that instant of visual pleasure. Dirar creates his own portraiture universe with knives and oil, elaborately adding layer over layer. Yet he manages to give the feeling of a quick rendering of a face before it is forgotten. Perhaps the invisible that the artist is chasing in his work is the phantom idea of beauty, trying to continue the tradition of personifying time.

The beast in the eighteenth-century fairy tale Beauty and The Beast may, after all, not be a complete invention but rather a metaphor to reality. The once prince is transformed into a hideous monster as punishment for his selfishness. The difference between the fairy tale prince and us is that the prince can see his physical ugliness in the mirror every day. In the real world, we either tend to ignore, deny or forget the ugly side of the coin. In this exhibition, we aim to show the dual face of humanity through the eyes of two influential artists. Beauty and The Beast. Hossam Dirar. Sabhan Adam.

View Sabhan Adam Page View Hossam Dirar Page