Raouf RifaiFollow Artist
The Life and Career of Raouf Rifai
Raouf Rifai was born in Lebanon in 1954. He studied at the Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut, where he gained a Bachelor’s degree in Decorative Art in 1982, before later attending the Sorbonne University in Paris, gaining a PhD in Urbanism in 1995.
An award-winning figurative and abstract painter, Rifai describes the subject of his work as humanity in its entirety, nourished by the region’s history and heritage. His work acts as a mirror, reflecting the reality of Middle Eastern civilization and evolution, focused on society’s myriad transitions. Topical aspects relating to the environment and instability are often explored in his thought-provoking work, which is also influenced by other styles, including impressionism and expressionism.
The Significance of Raouf Rifai’s Art
Rifai describes the complexity of the region - the psychology, the drama, the theatre and the shadows, and its permanent state of flux - as his primary source of inspiration.
The darwich has remained a recurring motif in Rifai’s art across the four decades in which he has been painting. Dynamic and created in bold vibrant colours, they act as a symbol of the complicated tapestry of the ever-changing Middle Eastern societal landscape. Social realities are relayed through these characters on canvas, where Rifai captures and shares a vast range of emotions, from terror and sadness to joy and happiness, whatever the backdrop or theme. As Rifai points out, each darwich has a particularity and a responsibility for their actions, highlighting the fragile and multi-layered way of life, determined by elements ranging from religions to social structures.
The ‘tarboosh’, is another feature in many works, once again, often making a comment on social status. Rifai opts for a vibrant palette, with his choice of colors also rooted in societal history - gold, which was regarded as sacred in Ancient Egypt, and purple for its association with the clergy, for example. He is today also exploring different media for his darwiches, which range from tapestry, ceramics and NFT to cinema and videos.
Raouf Rifai’s Achivements
Raouf Rifai has garnered national and international recognition as an artist in a career that spans 40 years. He was awarded first prize at the Sursock Museum’s 2010 Salon d’Automne in Beirut, and is also the recipient of several other accolades.
His work is widely collected and has been extensively exhibited, featuring in 70 public collections, including key biennales, 60 solo shows and high-profile auctions across the Middle East, Europe, the US and the Far East. These include: The Carnival of Darwiches (2015), Sana Gallery, Singapore; The New Middle East (2013), Inforimart Center, Paris, France; Harmony (2013), Farhat Art Center, California, US; and Interlude (2012), Athr Gallery, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Raouf Rifai’s artworks can also be found in public and private collections worldwide, including national museums, banks and universities.
As well as working as an artist, he taught for several years at the Department of Architecture and Design at the Lebanese University and is Vice President of the Association of Lebanese Artists.
- Carnaval of Darawiches - 2015 in Sana Gallery / Singapore / Singapore
- The New Middle East - 2013 in Inforimart Center / Paris / France
- Harmony - 2013 in Farhat Art Center / California / USA
- Interlude - 2012 in Athr Gallery / Jeddah / Saudi Arabia
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