Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist at the Tate Modern
Ibrahim El-Salahi is an influential figure in modernist art in the Arab and African world. A Visionary Modernist draws together an impressive variety of work across a huge range of techniques and styles. Each room takes you through a period of El-Salahi’s life up to the present day, but despite this linear chronology you quickly learn that you have no idea what to expect from one wall to another.
Pieces like Day of Judgement juxtapose styles and merge them, mixing the abstract with the more recognisable. The result is unusually striking, with sections of stark and bold lines contrasting against intricate segments of detail and density. This technique is followed through on multi-surface works such as the Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams installations, magnifying the effect on an impressive scale.
While he demonstrates by way of Western-style portraits and drawings that he is fully capable of executing more familiar or formal works, El-Salahi is also quite at home producing entirely abstract pieces. As in Vision of the Tomb, Arabic script often works its way into this type of work, blending seamlessly into the pieces as a whole, rather than being pushed inelegantly to the forefront.
A Visionary Modernist does not stagnate; it is dynamic and brilliantly unpredictable. You cannot get bored or dislike it entirely: there’s simply too much variety. It’s all good stuff, too, and well-curated, so you don’t get the impression that some of the pieces are just unnecessary scraps of paper that El-Salahi was doodling on one day, subsequently polished up with some fancy blurb, as can happen from time to time. It all feels like real content. This exhibition is well worth looking at.
Photos: Alberto Martínez
Ibrahim El-Salahi: A Visionary Modernist is at Tate Modern from 3rd July until 22nd September 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.