In Mazen Rifai’s small-scale paintings, thick brushstrokes traverse the horizontal axis of the canvas, often interrupted midway by more abundant planes of color ranging from pastel to night blue. A thin powdery white line, moving in parallel, marks the skyline. Rifai produces anti-illusionistic abstract works, but they are also landscapes of the Bekaa Valley. His move away from illusionism in the landscape is indebted to a modernist legacy of Lebanese painting in this genre, whose high point is often considered to be the artwork of Saliba Douaihy. Rifai’s landscapes are morphologically distinct from Douaihy’s, but a similar operation is at play in both, in which the move toward abstraction denaturalizes, and yet maintains, the referent.
Mazen Rifai is a Beirut-based painter and engineer. He has a degree in Fine Arts from Macerata, Italy, and a degree in interior architecture from the Lebanese University. He has also taught fine arts at the Lebanese University. Since 1974, he has participated in numerous editions of Sursock Museum’s salon d’Automne. In more recent years, he has had solo exhibitions in Beirut at Galerie Rochane (2016), Galerie Aida Cherfan (2014), Gallery 6 (2010), and Agial (2007), as well as in Paris at Galerie 34 Bonaparte (2016), and Galerie Alex Menem (2009). Rifai is an art director at “Engineers, consulting & contracting”, an engineering and architecture firm since 1990, and remains a consultant in the domains of construction, rehabilitation and renovation for the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR). In 1984, he contributed to the Beirut Central District Reconstruction Plan with Oger Liban. He is a member of the Baalbeck International Festival Committee.