Bachi, Marwan Kassab (1934--) By Lenssen, Anneka
Born in Damascus, the Syrian painter Marwan Kassab Bachi, who often goes by only the name Marwan, began his career in Damascus before immigrating to Germany, where he became a professor at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin in 1980. Marwan’s earliest works in the mid-1950s followed a modern symbolist style inflected by folk motifs. After leaving Syria in 1957 to study painting in Berlin, he joined the studio of Hann Trier and became aligned with Germany’s post-war New Figuration movement. The subjects of his painting series in the 1960s included politicians in clamps and braces, piles of fleshy meat, and melancholy figures with elongated bodies and distorted heads. Marwan’s later work emphasizes color and texture over legibility, and in recent years, his paintings of monumental heads take form through layered fields of brush marks that verge on abstraction. Because of the repetitious and self-effacing aspect of these compositions, they can also be interpreted as explorations of Sufist principles. Marwan has maintained close ties to Arab modernist movements in art and literature for the whole of his career, and contributed drawings and sketches to the publications of friends, such as the poet Adonis and the novelist Abdul Rahman Munif, among others.