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Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim discusses sunsets, nature and his hometown ahead of the Venice Biennale
DUBAI: Known for his playful and colorful abstract organic sculptures that engage with the earth and its surroundings, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim has a deep connection to the local environment, particularly that of his hometown of Khor Fakkan on the Gulf of Oman , near Fujairah in the UAE.
Known for its waterfront and spectacular Al-Hajar Mountains with their waterfalls and natural pools, it has one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the Gulf nation.
His works, remarkable for their electric colors and anamorphic shapes, immediately appear in harmony with the landscape in which they are placed, as if they had always belonged there.
Ibrahim is part of the first generation of contemporary artists in the late 1980s UAE, an avant-garde scene that included Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi, Hussein Sharif and Mohammed Kazem.
What distinguishes his work is his permanent and deep connection with the landscape of his hometown and the Hajar Mountains, to which he continually refers through his installations, paintings, drawings and objects.
“I love working with organic materials because they come from nature,” he told Arab News. “I use an experimental mix of materials. Paper mache, leaves, clay and glue. When I start to create, I prepare the material then I manufacture the objects, and it is by manufacturing the objects that I begin to make an assembly. It is through this process, working with materials and shapes, that my ideas come.
He then studies the colors to see which ones best suit the objects he creates.
“I am a child when I create my art; it’s like I’m playing,” he laughs. Indeed, his work evokes a childlike wonder and a look at the world, never devoid of exuberance. “The game gives way to seriousness,” he adds.
The dichotomy is all too apparent in his work – his objects, installations and drawings play with their surroundings as much as they offer fruit for serious contemplation.
The materials he uses and the resulting forms reflect his interest in archeology but also psychology.
Many may have seen his current installation “Hugs at Terra” in the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, an interactive installation forming a reflective passageway covered in his indecipherable black and white symbols.
The installation acts as a metaphorical and literal embrace for visitors, prompting them to question whether they are following their values rather than their desire for comfort and convenience.
In ‘Memory Drum’, the artist’s second solo exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi on Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, featuring works the artist made during the 2020 lockdown in the UAE, he explored psychological theory of the memory drum and how unconscious neutral patterns acquired from past experiences were stored in the central nervous system within a memory storage organ.
Nature, and that of his homeland of the United Arab Emirates, is ultimately Ibrahim’s greatest source of inspiration. It is through nature that the artist questions society and human psychology.
His works serve as joyful contemplations of the world around him, and they bring lightness and dynamism even to the darkness of spaces.
In “Falling Stones,” for example, his installation for Desert X Al Ula in 2020, a site-specific installation comprising 320 sculptures, varying in size and hue, were all inspired by the natural landscape and surrounding natural rock falls. and the sandstone cliffs of AlUla. .
Ibrahim’s colorful sculptures added vibrancy and contemporary vitality to the old rocky landscape of the ancient region, but in a way that felt almost natural, as if his sculptures had been there in AlUla for years, even decades. .
The artist is now embarking on his most prestigious work to date: an exhibition at the United Arab Emirates pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale, which runs from April 23 to November 27. Entitled “Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset” and curated by Maya Allison, Executive Director of New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, the presentation will reveal human-sized sculpture in the abstract and organic sculptural forms characteristic of the artist. The artist has been working on the piece for over two years since the original biennial dates were delayed due to COVID-19.
The work, like its title, refers to the different states of the sun throughout the day.
“At Khor Fakkan, the sun casts a shadow and not a real sunset,” said the artist. “At the end of the day, the sun sets behind the mountains. When we were growing up, we didn’t see the sunset because the mountains hid it.
His new work will be unveiled at the UAE pavilion during the opening of the Venice Biennale in April.
Experimentation, he says, was a crucial component of his artistic practice.
“I experiment with my materials, my forms and my thoughts. Sometimes I make an object that looks like a figure but isn’t. I give the chance to the viewer to read my work as he sees it in these experimental works. I create my art from a need and not from someone or something.
Regardless of anything explored through his artistic practice, one constant is the landscape of Khor Fakkan. In the country, he said, “You can see poetry and almost hear music. In this sense, he hoped his works would take on an otherworldly quality, which he hoped would lead his viewers to states of transcendence, joy, and to find deeper meaning with the natural world.
His works on paper often incorporate his own indecipherable language. Featuring abstract lines, inscriptions and shapes that evoke ancient rock drawings, when they might be devoid of any literal meaning, Ibrahim’s symbols serve to mark time and memory through the meditative repetition of shapes. and symbols.
Their resulting depiction is itself another form of visual language that communicates between people and the natural landscape of the artist’s homeland through the artist’s simple yet poignant use of form and color.