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Dalloul Art Foundation

AHMAD MOUALLA, Syria (1958)


Born in Baniyas in 1958, Ahmad Moualla is a prolific Postmodern Syrian artist whose unique style is imbued with strong elements of expressionism. Although he is best known for his intense...

Written by WAFA ROZ

Born in Baniyas in 1958, Ahmad Moualla is a prolific Postmodern Syrian artist whose unique style is imbued with strong elements of expressionism. Although he is best known for his intense calligraphic paintings and his complex figurative compositions, the artist has built a multifaceted career around graphic arts and set design as well as painting.He graduated with a degree in visual communications from the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Damascus in 1981, after which he obtained a diploma in 1987 from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Moualla returned to Syria in 1988, where he taught at The University of Damascus from 1989 to 1996. Winner of the best foreign poster at the Munich Exposition, Mouallais a prolific designer of book covers, posters, and murals; he has also participated in the scenography of several films and TV series, and designed numerous productions for the Syrian National Theater.

Moualla’s home city overlooks the sea, so the artist first opened his eyes to the vast blue vista of the Mediterranean, enchanted by its soothing rhythm. Two years later, his family moved to Al Raqqa,a city on the Euphrates River that offered the young boy a warm, earthy panorama and rich cultural roots stretching back to the Hellenistic period. Sounds and colors were the first to attract the attention of the budding artist. He grew up in a close-knit family of talented creatives, where he found plenty of outlets for his budding interest in the arts.

For example, as a youngster, he and his brothers staged elaborate theatrical productions. The artist’s first forays into set design involved stealing bed sheets, blankets, and small furniture items from the family home to utilize on stage. Moualla was never scolded for these efforts, however, for he was brought up by a loving father who encouraged him to fulfill his passion for art.  

Moualla looks back on a childhood shaped by his parents’ keenness for festive gatherings, which frequently filled their home with friends and neighbors, sharing meals and discussions. Open to diverse ideologies, his family members were ready to discuss Lenin and attend the Friday prayer at the same time.  All of this encouraged the development of Moualla’s rich visual memory and fostered a socio-political consciousness that would later find expression in his creative output. The fundamental themes of his work grew to revolve around humanity and the oft-strained relationship between the individual, society, and its authorities.

Before college, Moualla created traditional Islamic calligraphy and paintings as a source of revenue. He sold paintings to barber shops and restaurants and illustrated headlines on banners and posters. In college, Moualla studied graphic design and semiotics, which aided in the development of both his technical skills as an artist and his thinking around symbolic representation. When he returned to Damascus in 1988, Moualla was ready to build a career in graphic design, but instead prioritized painting. He took off on his journey producing figurative paintings in colorful settings that depicting social ceremonies and gatherings. Initially, he strived to master techniques inspired by the realism of French history painters such as Jacques Louis David and Eugene Delacroix. Through the years, however, he freed himself from the constraint of these rigid technical formulas and embraced an informal expressionist style, allowing the lucidity of acrylic paint, his spontaneous gestural brushstroke, and the chance interaction of colors lead the way to his shapes and forms. 

This emotive technique reaches its pinnacle in one of his most famous bodies of work, Grey Ash (2011), which echoes a 1997 homage to the late Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous. In this series of large-scale paintings, dismal silhouettes stray into abstraction, hazy, ghostlike figures that gather in chaotic crowds of smoky black and white tones. Moualla’s figures are devoid of any facial expression, gender representation, or discernable apparel; they are borderless, without contour, brushed together with luminous strokes that evoke a flood of water. These characters form surreal scenes throughout the paintings, suggesting – among many things – leaders giving speeches, musicians performing, and citizens gathered, baffled, around a huge hole in the ground. His compositions are segmented into different strata within which different happenings are depicted. The centerpiece of this series is an eight-panel painting dedicated to prominent Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish; it is meant to depict the story of the poet’s life, which, Moualla claims, is also the story of Palestine itself.

Merging abstraction derived from Islamic traditions with that of the west, Moualla introduced Arabic calligraphy into his large-scale figurative paintings, taking the written word beyond its ornamental aesthetic dimension. In his 2014 exhibition entitled Solemn, I Stand the Test of Time, verses from Arabic poems insinuated the underlying messages of the massive canvases they adorned. In one such painting, the artist inserts verses from Al Mutanabbi and Al Marri poems that talk of a time of monkeys, hinting to the state of ignorance and compliance that humanity has reached. In others, Moualla illustrates lengthy, repetitive scripts of poems attributed to different poets, overlapped in patterns, sweeping the entire surface of an intensely colorful background. Here, he deploys calligraphy skillfully to obscure the reading of a text, demanding his viewer to go beyond the meaning of the words into the underlying, radiating beauty of their form and their message.

Ahmad Moualla currently lives and works in Paris.


Selected Solo Exhibitions 


Lʼoeil Vagabond, Meung sur Loire, FRANCE
Solemn, I Stand the Test of Time, Mark Hachem Gallery, Beirut – Lebanon 


Naila art Gallery, Jeddah, KSA


Grey Ash, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE 


Word: The body of the dialogue, Municipality of Athens – Center of the Arts, Athens, Greece 


New Works, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE
Art House, Damascus, Syria
Atassi Gallery, Art Dubai, Dubai, UAE


Ahmad Moualla’s Orient, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait 


Alriwaq Gallery, Bahrain
Tribute to Antoine Maqdisse & Antoine Al-Jammal, Art House Gallery, Damascus, Syria 


Ahmad Moualla, Istanbul, Turkey 


Clay, Country Exhibition, the German Cultural Institute (Goethe) Damascus, Syria 


Private exhibition, Arts & Literature, National Board of Culture, Kuwait


Tribute to Saad Allah Wannous, Bahrain National Museum, Bahrain 
Private Experimentations, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE 


Tribute to Saad Allah Wannous, Atasi Gallery, Damascus, Syria 


Remains of a human combustion, Brazil Café at Cham Palace Hotel ,Damascus , Syria


Painting of Ras Almamluk Gaber, Book, UNESCO, Paris,France 
Tribute to Saad Allah Wannous, Bahrain National Museum, Bahrain 


Miro In Three Dimensions, The French Cultural Center, Damascus, Syria 


Trials in Colors, The French Cultural Center, Damascus, Syria 1990 Experimentations, 
Mar Gallery, Lattakia, Syria 
Experimentations,Atassi Gallery, Homs, Syria 
Experimentations,Bilad al-Cham Gallery, Damascus, Syria 


Ahmad Moualla, Urnina Gallery Damascus, Syria 

Selected Group Exhibitions 


Syrian Symphony: new compositions in sight and sound, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada


Nightfall, MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, Debrecen, Hungary 
Written Images, Contemporary Calligraphy from the Middle East, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Hong Kong, China 


Meissen, Germany 


New Horizons: Art from Syria, Contemporary Istanbul, Turkey
Signs: Contemporary Arab Art, Sundaram Tangore Gallery, New York, NY 


Retrospective of Fine Arts in Syria III, Damascus, Syria 
Syrian Modern Art,Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar 
Beyond Words: Contemporary Calligraphy from the Middle East, Kaysha Hildebrand Gallery, Zurich 


Syria meets Syria, New Gallery, Graz, Austria 


Glimpse at Arab Modern Art, Institutedu Monde Arabe, Paris, France 


Modern Syrian Art, Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris, France 
Even War Has Limits & Women and War, Exhibition by the Red Cross-Damascus, Geneva, Switzerland 


Participate in the experimental - critique seminar about (Kom Ghourab) 
Experience In Old Cairo With An Invitation From The International Critique Association ICA
Participate in Cairoʼs International Biennale, EGYPT


Participate in Biennale AL-SHARJAH to carry out artistic workshops in addition to taking part in The seminars that took place in parallel to the workshops and a special work experience with people with special needs

World Artists: An International Exhibitions that pays visits to many of the world capitals

Awards and Honors

Winner of the best foreign poster at the Munich Exposition. 
Granted the first award of the International Poster Competition held in 1988 in Kiel, Germany,


Abu Dhabi Authority for Cultural Heritage (ADACH)Abu Dhabi, UAE 
Barjeel Art Foundation, Abu Dhabi, UAE

SPM (Salsali Private Museum), Dubai, UAE
Atassi Foundation, Dubai, UAE
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon



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