Mazen Khaddaj celebrates his first solo show in Dubai
Mazen Khaddaj’s first solo show in Dubai ‘New Self Found’, curated by art historian Maie El-Hage, opened at Urbanist Art Gallery on 20 September 2023. Both the artist and the curator were present for the opening, as they also launched the Artist Talk and Art Performance on 23 September. The Dubai art scene celebrated Mazen’s work.
Lebanese-German artist Mazen Khaddaj, and his curator Maie El-Hage, launched ‘New Self Found’ his first solo show in Dubai, at Urbanist Art Gallery on 20 September. The project brings together two eras in the artist’s life and career; a series of paintings created in Berlin and exhibited for the first time, exclusively, in Dubai. The two collections included in the exhibition are ‘Lost & Found (2021-2022)’ which the artist painted during the difficult years of the pandemic and the loss of his beloved father, and ‘New Self (2023)’ which the artist painted after a revitalizing visit to his native Lebanon. This new era in his life, in which he reconnects with his roots and makes peace with his identity as a Lebanese-German in Berlin, is celebrated in ‘New Self Found’.
Mazen Khaddaj speaks about his work at Urbanist Art Gallery (photo courtesy of the gallery)
From left to right: The curator Maie El-Hage, the artist Mazen Khaddaj, Her Excellency the German Consul Mrs Sybille Pfaff, and the gallerist Mr Amjad Malki (photo by the author)
At the opening, we were graced with the presence of the German Consul, Her Excellency Mrs Sybille Pfaff, who attended, surveyed the artworks and engaged with the artist about his practice.
“‘New Self Found’ represents the beginning of a new era in my life, after the end of another era,” the artist shared. “What is noticeable in this collection is the colors and the outlines. My colors have clearly changed. There is almost a cut in the color palette (between the previous era and the current one), and I introduced new colors that seemed to have appear from nowhere. However, these colors really have emerged because of the new inner peace I have arrived at in my life.”
“Mazen has consolidated his identity as a German citizen and a Lebanese national,” the curator explained. “In his new works, we witness a blossoming of his inner peace and tranquility. His choice of color and abstract shapes explore different subject matters in a playful, and in fact free, way. The pieces bring delight to the viewer, as one clearly understands one is in the presence of a celebration.”
‘My Community’, Acrylic on Canvas, 170cmX200cm (2023)
‘The City & The People’, Acrylic on Canvas, 110cmX150cm (2023)
‘I Am Abundant’, Mixed Media on Canvas, 100cmX90cm, 2021
‘Faces of Berlin’, Mixed Media on Canvas, 120cmX100cm, 2021
The selection of paintings for the show ranged in terms of subject matter. Mostly abstract and symbolic in theme and style, there were references to landscapes ‘Moonlight’ (2022), two still life works ‘A Cherry & A Banana’ (2023) and ‘An Abundance of Oranges’ (2023), and a few portrait-like works ‘Confronting Sadness’ (2022) and ‘Faces of Berlin’ (2021). The references to Berlin and the artist’s experiences in Germany were various, including the astounding ‘My Community’ (2023), and the masterful ‘The City & The People’ (2023) with its obvious reference to the river Spree. The artist paid tribute to the relationships and friendships that support him in some of the paintings, such as the wonderful ‘Divine Bond’ (2022) and the colorful ‘We Share the Same Vision’ (2021). The artist also explored his own sense of self, like in the painting ‘I Am Two’ (2022) and ‘An Extension of Me’ (2022).
Opening Night at Urbanist Art Gallery (photo courtesy of the gallery)
Mazen has a very specific style and working process. He works in layers, creating textures and mixing his own colors. Each set of paintings, each collection in fact, shares a certain color palette. That is why the contrast between the two collections in the gallery space is so palpable. Many in the audience have noticed this, and comments about the brightness of the colors and the appearance of the outlines in the second collection ‘New Self (2023)’. The exhibition in its totally encapsulates the journey that the artist went through over the last three years. Its richness and diversity was recognized and celebrated by our captivated Dubai audience.
Photos from the Artist Talk & Art Performance (photos courtesy of the gallery)
On Saturday 23 September, we launched the second event. I interviewed the artist, as he shared with our audience about his experiences, why it was important for him to launch this show in Dubai, and how did performance become central to his artistic expression. After the interview, the artist performed ‘DIST____ANCE’, an art performance piece in which he expressed his relationship to his own self in times of tribulation. Our audience were captivated, and many wanted to connect with the artist and learn more about his practices. It was important for Mazen to perform at the gallery in Dubai, as his creative outlet came full circle from painting to performance.
‘New Self Found’ is on display at Urbanist Art Gallery until 9 October (photo courtesy of the gallery)
In conclusion, ‘New Self Found’ is a successful show, and the artist Mazen Khaddaj was able to reclaim his voice in the Middle East once again. We are very grateful for the support of the gallery Urbanist Art Gallery, and furthermore, we are grateful for the attention and support of the German Consulate in the UAE.
The last day to see ‘New Self Found’ by Mazen Khaddaj at Urbanist Art Gallery in Dubai is October 9, 2023. Make sure to pass by and see the show by then. The Gallery is open daily from 10am until 10pm, and open until 11pm on weekends.
Follow Urbanist Art Gallery on Instagram here.
Follow the author Maie El-Hage on Instagram here.
Follow the artist Mazen Khaddaj on Instagram here.
You can check the Viewing Room for Mazen Khaddaj on Artsy here.
Gallery Address: Urbanist Art Gallery, Boxpark, AlWasl Road, Dubai, UAE.
This article was first published on Arte & Lusso Online Magazine by Maie El-Hage.