On the evening of the 16th of July, Wadi Finan Gallery hosted artist Khaldoun Hijazin’s first solo exhibition, Majestic Play, which will run until the 4th of August. Under the patronage of HRH Princess Rajwa Bint Ali, the paintings on display are rendered in a traditionally representational style, although the subject matter is decidedly modern. Hijazin’s style is characterized by Rococo sensibilities tinged with satire, and while some of the older works on display are thematically inclined towards the socio-political, the artist’s newer work approaches the metaphysical and transcendental.

Khaldoun Hijazin, Holy Splash, Oil on Canvas, 2018, Jordan (image courtesy of the artist)

Although Majestic Play is Hijazin’s first solo show, he had co-curated and participated in a group exhibition called Empathy and Craft in the 21st Century just last August at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. The show had concluded a series of collaborative workshops exploring the concept of intersectionality through 2D, 3D, and 4D media. A similar social-mindedness is evident in Hijazin’s earlier paintings presented as part of Majestic Play, featuring the fictional figure of “Shoeman;” a print of Hijazin’s oil painting, Portrait of Shoeman, created by the Boston-based print company, Trifecta Editions, hangs among acrylic paintings depicting the whereabouts of the shoe-faced mogul. In a jet-black suit and an authoritative red tie, Shoeman seems to embody corporate corruption, and Hijazin’s portrayal thereof destabilizes conventional capitalist control dynamics through the art of caricature.

Khaldoun Hijazin, Portrait of Shoeman, Print, 46x61cm, 2014, Jordan (Image courtesy of Trifecta Editions)

In addition to a well-articulated social-consciousness, Hijazin’s work also demonstrates an aptitude for tackling the deep-seated metaphysical questions of the 21st Century. However, rather than giving answers, the artist provides a space for his audience to contemplate the spiritual and political priorities of a capitalist society, allowing them to find their own solutions. The divine symmetry and color palette of Holy Splash and its accompanying pedestals, for one, re-appropriate the religious iconography of the past to suggest a new definition of the Holy in our current era. A more glaring historical allusion is The Creation of Milk Chocolate, which’s uncanny reference to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam obliges the viewer to question what truly merits reverence in our consumerist epoch.

Khaldoun Hijazin, The Creation of Milk Chocolate, Oil on Canvas, 90x80cm, 2018, Jordan (Courtesy of Wadi Finan Gallery)

Indeed, paintings such as Majestic Rejoice and The Emergence of New Delights read almost like glorified commercials. The former features a group of chubby cherubs reveling around halo-like cookies while, in the latter, a van bursts forth from an oceanic splash of milk, soaring among gargantuan scoops of ice cream. The drama and dynamism in them is poignant, almost as if a painter of the Late Baroque was resurrected specially to create them. The stylistic resemblance of these paintings to those of the Old Masters offers a comparison between the values which had animated the art world centuries ago and the ones with which the public is preoccupied nowadays.

Khaldoun Hijazin, The Emergence of New Delights, Oil on Canvas, 100x100 cm, 2018, Jordan (image taken by artmejournal team)

Soon after the opening, the gallery was bursting at the seams with contemplative and congratulating visitors. Mrs. Rana Shaaban and her husband, Mr. Tarazi, like many others, found the paintings on display to be quite thought-provoking and rife with hidden references. Artist Zina Fanous was impressed by Hijzain’s unique and novel style, spotting traces of realism and pop art in the images he produced. Overall, masterful technique aside, part of the allure of Majestic Play is its suggestiveness; as with Below the Scenes and Deep Stuff, completeness of meaning is curtailed in favour of mystery, leaving the viewer to excavate the essence of the artwork by looking into themselves.

Khaldoun Hijazin, Below the Scenes, Oil on Canvas, 70x135cm, 2017, Jordan (courtesy of the artist)
Khaldoun Hijazin, Majestic Rejoice, Oil on Canvas, 100x148 cm, 2018, Jordan (image courtesy of the artist)

With his scrupulous style and the themes he has chosen, Hijazin’s show could have easily been didactic or even condescending, but he manages to make it pensive and provocative. Face to face with figures boasting lollipops for heads and sublime seas of milk, Majestic Play provides viewers with plenty of food for thought.

Khaldoun Hijazin, Madame Grand, Oil on Canvas, 60x50cm, 2018, Jordan (courtesy of the artist)
Image courtesy indicated in captions.