New exhibition: Tales from the Silk Road, Dubai
Egyptian-born artist Mohamed Abla lived and studied in Europe as a young man, but returned to his homeland in 1985, while keeping a studio in Germany. He has since forged a career based on his ability to see his country both as an insider and an outsider, giving him a crucial perspective on its developments.
An early champion of the revolts that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, his disillusionment at the aftermath of that period led him to turn his gaze back in time, to the mythology of the Silk Road, when the Middle East was a crucial intersection of trade and cultures between East and West.
The exhibition includes abstract artworks that synthesise calligraphy, collage and traditional Middle Eastern techniques, as well as a series of new paintings entitled The Silk Road, which explore folktales from North Africa, the Levant, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
By painting in this way, colours are built in layers that appear to float or dance as if on water. Abla describes this as being akin to a “street act” where the colours change like a performance. Narratives play an important role, with Abla selecting folktales that he sees as symbolic of instability that followed the heady days of 2011.
Perhaps his “search for heroes”, be they kings and queens, princes and princesses, reflects a longing for a more prosperous, peaceful era? Equally, although there is much that is troubling about what led Abla to these works, he describes the series as “joyful”, saying he is committed to “serious play”.
He’d like viewers to imagine the stories of the Silk Road as if they were “fairy tales”, saying, “I would love it if everybody could imagine and could invent their own stories.”
Mohamed Abla: The Silk Road, runs from October 10–November 24, 2017, at Tabari Artspace (formerly known as Artspace Dubai)