Abdul Mati Klarwein is an outstanding contemporary painter, widely known for the versatility of his activities and uniqueness of his artistic style and his remarkable vision of the world. Born in Germany, Klarwein moved to Palestine where in 1950s he adopted the name Abdul as a sign of empathy with the Arabs. He was brought up in Europe, so he could hardly adopt the Palestinian culture and way of life. Mati studied in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; later on in Saint-Tropez the artist got acquainted with Ernst Fuchs, one of the founders of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism. This acquaintance made a considerable impact on the technique of Mati Klarwein. Moreover, the artist supposed Salvador Dali to be his spiritual father and in the interview he even pointed out that he was thought to be Dali’s illegitimate son.
The artist traveled extensively, but it was not merely tourism, as Rob Young keenly noticed, for Klarwein, it was “a far deeper immersion in foreign cultures and belief systems”¯ (Young) which gave the artist a clear perspective for development and perfection of his own distinctive vision of the world around him combined with technical mastery of his craft. His rich experience was reflected in his visual imagery, which despite definite charges did not greatly depend on his chemical enhancement. According to Rob Young, having gained enough experience from traveling and various life experiences, Klarwein “began synthesizing all these impressions into his distinctive, huge tantric paintings”¯ (Young).
In spite of Klarwein’s popularity his artistic style is quite enigmatic and even contradictory. Though his paintings possess a lot of surrealistic elements, Mati Klarwein himself did not consider himself a surrealist. Some scholars define his style as visionary art in the broadest sense of the term. For some he is also supposed to be a psychedelic artist. The Society of Art of Imagination relates him to magic realism due to a peculiar way he depicted reality.
To be more precise, one may judge that not the artist himself was influenced by trends but rather he searched for a way of world interpretation through his outlook. Many of his works were affected by surrealism and pop culture, he also dealt with symbolism and worked in the genres of still life, portrait and landscape painting, and many of his works were carried out for the music-album covers. Mati himself was not sure about his style and ironically remarked: “In the fifties I was classified as an illustrator, even though my work consisted of paintings and in the sixties my work was classified as psychedelic. So I took psychedelics to find out what it was all about”¯ (Klarwein).
In the sixties Klarwein cooperated with progressive musicians and created his famous painting “Annunciation”¯, used by Santana for the cover of Abraxas. He also produced covers for Miles Davis albums, “Bitches Brew”¯ and “Live-Evil”¯. In the sixties and seventies he “improved”¯ paintings bought cheaply at the markets. And having produced a number of iconic images his authorship remained unknown. Thanks to his collaboration with musicians be came to be known not only among the connoisseurs of modern art. In the seventies he painted “real-estate”¯ works and worked with Per Tjernberg and Hassell. Many of Klarwein’s paintings are liaisons between ancient tribal history and modern civilization. Some of his works function as landscapes and maps at the same time.
Ronald A. Kuchta wrote about the great visionary artist that he: “is a visionary poet of the sublime”¦ an artist of amazing technical virtuosity.Ā He is also an enigma that an ever widening audience is trying to solve”¯ (Kuchta).