Souad Mardam Bey
Souad Mardam Bey, was born in Damascus to a Syrian father from the dynastic family of the Mardam-Beys and to a Kurdish-German mother from the illustrious family of El Youssef. She is a contemporary female artist whose work is stylistically inspired as much by her cultural origins and past as it is her fantastical renditions of contemporary observations of day to day life in the Middle East.
Raised in Beirut, Mardam Bey studied philosophy at the Lebanese University, and she partook in visual arts studies at a time when Beirut was teeming with hundreds of artists who formed a strong community of academics, practitioners and patrons. It was there that Mardam Bey first began to develop herself as a painter and the many subjects and themes which she engages with creatively and intellectually. Giving equal weight to her subjects is the unique painterly technique and aesthetic which she has developed to become so singularly identifiable as the artist’s own. Her unique approach to layering and contrasting deep jewel-tone colours alongside thick layers of impasto paint lends her canvases a thick visual texture.
Mardam Bey has long focused on creating semi-abstract artworks while articulating complex human emotions. She includes or references the human figure architecture, fashion design, and language– both literal and symbolic. In recent years, she has considered more esoteric subjects like spirituality, and the symbolism and parables contained within the Biblical stories of Prophets Abraham, Jesus and Moses. Further developing her aesthetic language so as to express the immensity and significance of these stories in a painterly narrative, her rendition of the Last Supper contains much of her characteristic themes such as strong, bold lines which define the outlines of her human subjects, and androgynous faces of figures clothed and accessorised in contemporary wear.
Today, her work reflects the life and considerations of an artist who lived not only in multiple places but who experienced multiple histories and multiple eras. For a world that at moments seems to have lost a semblance of normalcy and meaning, Mardam Bey’s paintings are a world unto themselves of optimistic meanings.
It is for that reason why Mardam Bey’s paintings do not appear to be of a certain time, but rather, of a fleeting duration captured still. Whether it is her paintings of tan figures in elaborately-designed costumes, ragdolls or animals, her subjects are either in a state of slow, graceful movement across the canvas or staring out at the viewer with large, observing eyes. A sense of the ethereal is imbued in her paintings. One cannot infer whether the figure is male or female, where they originate from or of what era, but their languid eyes belie a beauty of what the artist has observed in this world and what she is determined to capture. It is this effort of infusing her subjects with a mysteriousness and indelible beauty so as to make it difficult as to determine who they are or where they come from that emphasizes Mardam Bey’s expansive creative imagination and the very scale of her internal creativity– the world itself which her subjects inhabit.
Mardam Bey has exhibited widely in art galleries in the Middle East, Europe and North America. She has participated in both solo and group shows in Damascus, Cairo, Beirut, Kuwait, Paris, Montreal and Washington. She currently divides her time between Cairo and Beirut.