Fadia Haddad

1959 | Beirut, Lebanon
Fadia Haddad — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Fadia Haddad in her workshop

Franco-Lebanese painter.

Born into a Greek Orthodox family from Beirut, Fadia Haddad spent her teenage years in a city torn apart by civil war. In 1979 she was sent to Paris to complete her secondary studies and after passing her baccalaureate returned to Beirut. It was only in the mid-1980s, however, that her real love affair with Paris began, when she was admitted to the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) and sparked the interest of critics such as Jean-Luc Chalumeau, who in 1988 wrote an article devoted to the budding new painter in Opus international, claiming she could “attain beauty without looking for it”.
Between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s F. Haddad showed her work at the Salon de la Jeune Peinture, the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, the Salon de Montrouge and Espace Culturel Paul-Ricard. During this period, while she was making a name for herself on the international scene, discourse on painting was veering between crisis alerts and practical factors and the influences subtly emerging from her work proved to be many and varied. On the one hand a Spanish modernist streak could be detected, conjuring up Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Joan Miró (1893-1983) and Antonio Tàpies (1923-2012), whose links with a broader spectrum of Mediterranean art suddenly took on a new meaning by virtue of the experience of a Lebanese artist who despite being discovered in Paris remained firmly attached to her native country, travelling and showing her work there. On the other hand, a carefully measured dialogue with American Expressionism could be observed, ranging from Pop with Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) to Abstraction with Robert Motherwell (1915-1991).

From the 1990s and the major Symphonie des oiseaux [Birds symphony] cycle, F. Haddad’s art nevertheless found itself facing a great many other challenges, revolving around architecture and the poetics of space but also the epiphany between the choreographic and the pictorial gesture. Her painting, stemming from a genuine dance around the canvas, which was placed directly on the floor, demonstrates the infinite physical prowess at the heart of her compositions, which are both spontaneous and constructed.
The other major cycle, titled Masques, a leitmotif F. Haddad has been returning to since the 2000s, on both canvas and paper, is neither a religious artefact nor a principle of composition. It more readily suggests a dynamic principle, a compass the painter is attempting to tame, within an experience that is as redolent of asceticism as it is of ecstasy. She is on a quest to find that subtle visual and psychological balance between the mass of paint she practically throws in the viewer’s face and the geometric pencil-drawn mask that unsettles the gaze as it verges on transparency. F. Haddad’s works contain a search for a borderline state, akin to a spell or a Medusa-like gaze luring us into a seemingly immobile dance.

Since the 1990s, F. Haddad has been holding exhibitions in renowned Parisian galleries such as Galerie Nicole Ferry, and more recently, Galerie Michel Rein, while simultaneously displaying her work in Lebanese galleries including those of Alice Mogabgab and Saleh Barakat.
Her works have also entered a great many private and public collections worldwide, including those of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, the Patrimoine de l’Humanité in Geneva, Artistic Memories of the 20th Century in New York, the Sursock Museum in Beirut, and in Paris, the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Institut du Monde Arabe and the Alberto Pinto Collection.

Morad Montazami

Translated from French by Caroline Taylor.

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