Reflections of a Soulful Painter: Emotions Run Deep in Works by Syrian Artist

Article excerpt

The art of Malva reflects his soul. He must express himself through paint "in order to exist" says the artist. "Each canvas is just one expression of my deepest emotions." Malva uses the canvas to free himself of the pain and suffering he experienced while growing up. Though his father didn't support his interest in painting, Malva never gave up his dream of being an artist.

Born in 1951 in Tel Nail, a small village of mud cottages in the most northern part of Syria, Malva's childhood was not one of joy and freedom that many of us remember. Instead, it was packed with the hardships and pressures of helping to support his family. Throughout primary school, he spent the afternoons on the streets selling sweets and during his summer vacations, he worked in the cotton fields. As Malva grew a bit older, he worked at the local cinema each night, painting posters, writing announcements for new films and cleaning the cinema hall.

Throughout this period, Malva's talent and extraordinary sense of color and form was beginning to be recognized. He started painting with intensity to express his fears, pain and the abominable memories of his childhood. He painted with glaring colors, such as yellows and reds, and used strong brush strokes.

"I was born to be a painter," Malva says. "My background worked against me, but it only made me stronger. The life of an artist is difficult, but there is no reason to give up."

The situation at home was unsettling because his father had two wives and Malva felt the pain of his mother. And with the pressures of an authoritarian education, along with his father's negative attitude towards Malva's interest in painting, he eventually left the family at age 17 to begin his career. With 35 oil paintings in hand, Malva traveled to Damascus, Syria, where the Ministry of Education offered him exhibition space at the cultural center. The exhibition created a sensation among the national arts scene, with radio, television and the press reporting on the event.

At the age of 20, Malva was drafted into the military service, but still exhibited often in Syria at the National Museum of Damascus, as well as the National Museum of Alepo. But Malva could not survive on his art alone. He found occasional jobs as an art teacher at several institutes of higher education, as well as work as a graphic designer. He spent many years in graphic design before he moved to Beirut, where he settled with his first wife, and later his three children. But soon after, his wife left him, taking their three children with her. So, he moved to Europe and feeling more isolated than ever, Malva found himself in a new homeland, with a new language, where the local galleries didn't have any interest in his paintings. …