Khalil Mufarrij was born in Beirut in 1947 to Dr. Sleiman Mufarrij
MD from Broumana, and Mona Youssef Sader from Beirut, the only boy
amongst five girls. He went to Broumana High School and got his
General Certificate of Education (GCE) in 1966. One of his selected
subjects was drawing, but he attended the class only once as he
was sure to do well in the exam. He was active in the Scout movement
between 1961 to 1966, and became an assistant troop leader. During
1967 1968, he received his Baccalaureate I and II from Chouaifat
AUB in 1968 and got his BA in Political Science in 1973. The young
idealist Khalil was a committed political activist, an Arab nationalist
who felt that the Arab homeland needs revolutionary measures to
be modernized and become part of the developed world. He read political
party programs and political thoughts including his mother's uncle,
Amine Rihani's books, Kings of Arabia and Heart of Lebanon. His
ideal was Kamal Ataturk who in an unprecedented manner revolutionized
Turkey and carried it into the twentieth century.
following the steps of his uncle, Fouad Mufarrij, who was a well
known Arab National activist, Khalil organized a political movement
with his fellow students during his last year in Broumana High School
and in Chouaifat College which he called Al Aazm (will power) Party.
At AUB, he co-founded with few fellow students another politically
active group As'hab el Raii (the idea holders), which developed
into a wide Student Front movement, nicknamed Al Sana, which established
a student co-op and an employment bureau. The movement conducted
seminars on campus and in homes, held open-air political sketches
and organized trips to south Lebanon in solidarity with the Lebanese
in the frontiers under frequent Israeli attacks. All members of
these secret movements have later taken senior positions in the
civic and public life in Lebanon. In 1969, with few fellow students,
he joined a hunger strike and refrained from eating for a whole
week, surviving on water and fruit juices, when the Israelies raided
Beirut airport and destroyed the Lebanese commercial air fleet.
At AUB, he tried to take a course in painting and sculpture, but
had to drop it and take an economics course instead. One semester
before graduation, he was diagnosed for Multiple Sclerosis, which
changed his life drastically.
did not prevent the dynamic, ambitious young university graduate
from pursuing work. After graduation, Khalil worked for half a year
at Trans Mediterranean Airways (TMA) in the sales department at
the airport and then in the Personnel office. Later, in 1975, he
joined Al Hawadeth Magazine and worked for one month, translating
documents from English to Arabic, as he had a good style in his
mother tongue. His illness and later the civil war interrupted his
to travel. He went to Cyprus in 1962, to Egypt in 1964, to Syria,
Jordan and Palestine in 1966, to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands,
England and France in 1970, as well as to London and Paris (1975),
to Saudi Arabia (1976), and to the Greek islands (1981).
working in contracting for a while, then travelled to Saudi Arabia
for one month, and then decided to go to Greece for vacation and
to study the possibility of going into shipping. He also contemplated
traveling to the USA to follow his dreams, but the creeping symptoms
of his incurable disease worked against his wishes and gradually
bound him to his house in Broumana to follow another path, the path
of self-discovery through painting.
as a painter was gradual as he was autodidact. He read extensively;
history of art books, conceptual as well as technical books on art.
His early works, starting in 1998, were drawings in pencil and colored
pens on paper and were mostly portraits. His drawings were personal
commentaries, both descriptive and suggestive, but always perfectly
coherent, revealing a keen sense of observation. He started using
oil pastel in 2001 and in some of his works in 2002. He was prolific
from 1998 until 2002, drawing an average of seventeen pieces a year.
It fell down to two drawings after that, and only one in 2009, as
he did not feel at ease in controlling his pen.
to acrylic paint on canvas as a vehicle in 2003 in representational,
often figurative style. His departure in painting could be an idea,
an incident, a subject or a complex reference. Figurations started
to disappear gradually in 2006 and his work lost its link with the
world of images and became totally abstract in 2009. His abstractions
often have a narrative intention that may not be obvious to the
not hesitate to use different painting techniques on his canvas.
He applies paint generously with brush, knife, or directly from
the tube by dripping, dribbling and pattering, and always in a painterly
manner to exploit the visual expressive potential of colors.
dynamism of his paintings is revealed in the viscosity, speed and
impact of laying paint on canvas. The act of painting becomes a
psychophysical action, a storehouse of dynamic forces. His colors
are often loud, exhibiting physical truculence, as if he is tackling
the chaos of his subconscious to let out his buried impulses, and
find himself through the process of painting, until his painting
Some of Khalil's
paintings seem to be close to action paintings, where there are
neither straight lines nor geometric forms, only the dynamic energy
of color. His paintings are expressive, subjective and spontaneous
creations. They are emotional responses to his situation: a cultured,
intelligent, well-read and informed young man, positive and humane,
a free spirit, a gentleman, prisoner of his body. Painting has become
to Khalil like breathing. In the process of painting, he is searching
for his own vocabulary, to better express his ideas and feelings
about life, the world and the universe. It is an exhilarating adventure
of self-discovery, aiming at and reaching to the true image of his
multiple sclerosis with acrylics
Lebanese artist Khalil Mufarrij discusses his path from political
activism to art
By Sophia Tillie - The Daily Star
Vivid abstract paintings hang in each room of the Mufarrij house-hold
and it is surprising how they harmonize so subtly their elegant
traditional furniture. In a small back room furnished with a bed
and a desk, Khalil Muffarij sits by the window, speaking with elegant,
gentle gestures. Mufarrij was born in Beirut in 1947, the youngest
and only son. As a young man he was an idealist and a committed
Arab nationalist activist who felt that the Arab homeland needs
to be modernized by revolutionary means. His role model was Kamal
Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.
At 17, Mufarrij
and some fellow AUB students founded the political movement Al-Shaab
al-Raii (the idea-holders), which later developed into a broad-based
his BA in political science at the American University of Beirut
in 1973. One semester before graduation, however, he was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis. This did not prevent his pursuing work
in the Middle East and Europe but the MS's creeping symptoms prevented
his traveling to the U.S. and gradually bound him to this Broumana
in 1998, he chose a path of self-discovery through painting. "Happiness,
anger, sorrow, contradictory feelings, "Mufarrij says when
asked how he feels about his illness. "This is how I feel."
It's hard to
find any traces of anger and sorrow in his paintings, which radiate
luminosity of color and dynamism.
paint, I do what I feel," he explains, "I start with the
colors and don't plan. I once drew and planned with pencil and then
I got stuck… so this was the first and last time I planned. Now
I let myself really feel my freedom."
little formal instruction in the arts and his early works were pencil
and pen-and-ink drawings on paper, mostly portraits. His drawings
were personal commentaries, both descriptive and suggestive, but
always perfectly coherent.
He started experimenting
with oil pastels in 2001 using them in some of this works in 2002.
He was prolific from 1998 until 2002, completing an average of 17
pieces a year. After that he lost easy control of his pen and he
dropped to two drawings a year, completing only one work in 2009.
to acrylic on canvas in 2003, creating representational, often figurative,
works. Figuration gradually drained from his work after 2006 as
MS took hold and in 2009 the work became totally abstract. He now
produces a work every few weeks.
often have a subtle narrative intention."I do name the painting
and each painting has a story but that doesn't mean that that is
it," Mufarrij says. "Everybody sees different things in
it and I respect the viewer. As for myself, I leave the painting
to tell me something.
are expressive, subjective and wildly spontaneous creations. As
he drifted toward abstract expressionism, he entered a domain where
straight lines and geometric form are supplanted by the dynamic
energy of color.
His paintings are the emotional response of a highly cultured spirit
defiant of his bodily imprisonment. This is most evident in the
internal dynamism of his painting, in the viscosity, speed and impact
of his laying paint on canvas.
"I am trying
to protest, "he says."I am protesting about everything.
I am tackling with God, not protesting just about the state of planet
earth. Human nature is strong but with many loopholes, as if God
did not finish his work. For me this is the real civil war."
grew up during Lebanon's Civil War. "I lived the war,"
he says."The war affected me. I was against it. Some people
believe in war like they do religion. I am often asked why I don't
paint my feelings about the war. But I did not wish to draw a Picasso's
'Guernica' of screaming heads and broken bodies."
Mufarrij seems to be searching for his own vocabulary, making his
work an exhilarating discovery of different levels of self. "Religion
is like sex," he explains."It is deeply personal, and
spirituality, for me, is a constant tension between the spiritual
and material. You do not know where to settle yourself."
brush stokes seem to transgress these dualistic tensions. Yet what
is most striking is how he manages to fuse this intensity and range
of color with such speed without destroying or muddying the purity
of his colors.
this through a variety of experimental paint-application techniques,
augmenting brushes with kitchen knives and tree branches, sometimes
applying paint directly from the tube. There are no rules and no
boundaries, especially in his constant exploration and experimentation
with color."I try to discover new colors, new methods. When
I achieve this I fly out of earth."
uses acrylic paint. "Acrylic dries quicker and I have no patience,"
he explains."It suits me and oil is clumsy. I try to expose
it and give it more life by discovering the colors as the tube doesn't
give it to you. You have to prepare your colors and to do so you
have to know your colors."
is renowned for its use of vivid and luminous colors, attributed
to the quality of sunlight here. With his range of synchronized
color combination, Mufarrij pushes the boundaries of color viscosity
to a point where color seems to become sound. It is here that he
enters unchartered territory.
is one thing but you have to educate it," he says."It
is like a fountain. It does not stop."
is still being discovered. He acknowledges his influences and shows
concern about mimicry." You cannot but be influenced by painters
but I do not want to imitate anyone," he says."I want
to make something new. I feel I have something different."
He says he never
used to want to exhibit his work as he was not interested in the
materialistic side of the art world. Art for him was therapeutic
and he would give his paintings as gifts to friends and family.
Art critic Cesar Nammour argued that the public should see his work
and published the artist's full collection in his book" Khalil
Mufarrij. "Last year, Mufarrij exhibited his paintings at the
Surface Libre Gallery in his first and only exhibition, "Evolution."
have peace in the world without art," he says."It is the
only solution to keeping an open mind. It teaches tolerance and
how to be creative. It makes you try things. I for myself am no
longer a nationalist. The whole planet is one village. We are all
very close to feeling the same."
therapy in an explosion of color
Self-taught painter Khalil Mufarrij seems to use every hue imaginable
in his works, By Natalie Fox - The Daily Star
Mufarrij has been a painter since 1998, but "Evolution,"
nowadays up at Surface Libre Gallery, is his first public exhibition.
These 36 acrylic-on-canvas works leap out at you as soon as you
walk into the gallery.
used every color imaginable in these abstract paintings. They differ
in size, but each is as likely as the next to leave an impression.
are neither straight lines nor geometric forms" in these paintings,
writes prolific Lebanese artist Cesar Nammour in his biography of
Mufarrij, "only the dynamic energy of color.
are often loud, exhibiting physical turbulence, as if he is tackling
the chaos of his subconscious to let out his buried impulses and
find himself through the process of painting, until his painting
his studies in political science, and he graduated with a BA in
that discipline from the American University of Beirut in 1973.
Before he completed his degree he'd been diagnosed with multiple
worsened through the years, dampening his committed political activism
and love of travel. His condition also prevented Mufarrij from visiting
his exhibition at Surface Libre.
is innate and his artistic techniques self-taught, though he says
he's read extensively of art books. Painting has become therapeutic
for Mufarrij, who used to present his work as gifts to friends and
wanted to exhibit my work," he says. "I didn't take it
seriously and I wasn't interested in the materialistic side of the
Nammour disagreed and insisted that the public should see his work.
The painter's exposure to the art scene has been gradual and received
a major boost in 2010, when Nammour published the artist's biography
is my life now. I cannot do without it," Mufarrij says. The
paintings" are my children and I paint each one from the bottom
of my heart."
Each work in "Evolution" is a visually pleasant surprise.
Individual works incorporate a variety of techniques to create distinctive
textures and visual effects.
Mufarrij explains, is dry and not glossy, so "I try my best
to expose it and give it more life."
The artist also
uses different tools, augmenting his brushes and knives with tree
branches, wall-painting brushes and the like. He sometimes applies
paint directly from the tube.
(80x80 cm) is one instance where the swirls and layers of paint
are generously applied in some areas, making it appear still wet
and giving it a mother-of-pearl sheen. In others, the paint has
been scraped across the surface to reveal the canvas.
represents the after-life," says Mufarrij, "a better place
than this life but not one that is materialistic or extra-terrestrial.
The paintings deal with the spirit of God but also not in the traditional
Planet X" (100x120cm) is an example of such a work. It also
demonstrates the artist's unusual application of metallic, fluorescent
and glitter paint.
he tries to complete one painting per week, and he explains that
he does not have an original plan for each painting. As he begins
to apply the paint, rather, he develops and pieces together the
the colors I feel like using and I allow myself to have maximum
freedom when I start mixing the colors," says Mufarrij, who
believes that he must be honest with his feelings and not attempt
to imitate other painters.
finish the painting, I listen to it to see what it will tell me,
and only then will I title the painting, according to what it means
to me." The artist acknowledges that not everyone is bound
to his interpretation and that they can make of his work what they
start out with the intention of using only a couple of colors on
a painting," adds Mufarrij. Well, in more ways than one, "Evolution"
is certainly proof that things don't always go as planned.
paintings of the artists in his art studio
Dictator and Power
Two works which express well what is happening in our Arab world,
of the artist's artwork
►► Meet the artist in Art Direct Sale!