Dusk Till Dawn is Emirati artist's Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim first solo exhibition in London, taking place at Cromwell Place, as part of a wider collaboration between Abu Dhabi Art, Cromwell Place and a selection of UAE galleries.
Ibrahim’s practice is inspired by his deep connection to the natural environment of Khorfakkan, a rambling coastal town on the Gulf of Oman, enclosed on one side by the rocky Hajar Mountains and the other by the sea. His paintings and drawings are imbued with his own form of language - inscriptions, lines and abstract forms that are reminiscent of ancient cave drawings - marking time and memory through meditative repetition. At Cromwell Place we present a series of black and white Lines paintings from 2017, black and white papier-mâché and collage works made between 2015 and 2018, and a selection of colourful sculptures made in the last year, providing a small glimpse into Ibrahim’s practice.
Ibrahim’s interest in the ‘line’, black or white typographical lines that are reminiscent of ancient cave markings or ancient numeric systems, can be traced back to the early 1990s, and derives from his fascination with the rustic landscape of his home environment and the changes that have come about through its urbanisation.
“Here in the United Arab Emirates, we are surrounded by diverse and ancient landscapes as well as advanced urbanisation. This tension is one of the concepts I explore in my work through organic materials, by allowing my subconscious to find the forms”. Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim
The artist’s early childhood memories are of markings on the external walls of homes in his hometown where single lines were made to indicate the number of water bottles delivered by the local water supplier. Leaving an imprint on his memory, these repeated lines have become the backbone of Ibrahim’s practice, emerging regularly in his paintings, drawings and sculptures.
In his paintings repeated white lines of different heights and widths are made against a black or grey background and arranged in groups across the canvasses. They give the impression of random road markings or buildings in a style reminiscent of child-like paintings. This is perhaps even more obvious in his collages and assemblages, where cut out paper and card are arranged to create skylines interspersed with mountains and trees, all using the same repetitive black lines.
Ibrahim’s black and white papier-mâché architectonic works (a series first shown at his survey exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation in 2018) are part painting, part sculpture and stem from the Line series of paintings. These eccentric pieces have a primordial quality to them – a grouping of hand-moulded oblong shapes wedged with blocks of card, bodies of paper hanging from strings or crushed into the shapes. At times minimal, at times complex, the works play with notions of multiplicity and division.
On the other hand, Ibrahim’s sculptures are brightly coloured and resemble pylons or scaffolding, toys, animals, trees and fruit. The brightly coloured papier-mâché sculptures are made of natural paper pigments combined by the artist, their vivid repeated lines of colour consistent with the obsessive mark-making of his practice, whilst the shapes reflect the natural formations of his domestic landscape. His choice of vibrant and at times garish colour combinations seek to capture the “explosion in his eyes” he experienced when he first saw the sunset – until that moment a life lived beneath the Hajar Mountains had obstructed its view.
Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s modest structures explore his deep fascination with memory, imagery and ways of seeing and experiencing the environment. His art comes from both his personal experiences and the kind of innate memory found in our DNA, which he describes as a “primitive urge.”