FROM THE FIGURATIVE TO THE ABSTRACT: AN EXHIBITION OF MODERN ARAB ART AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM LONDON: REVIEWER LAURENCE HUMPHRIES

I recently attended an Exhibition at the British Museum on Modern Arab Art. It was very informative and interesting and in Countries oppressed and Bombed by American Imperialism and its allies it was good to see such imaginative and interesting art developing in several countries.

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M Guedmini was the first artist I looked at on the 4th Floor of the British Exhibition. He was born in Djerba Tunisia and trained in Paris at the Ecole Beaux art. His figurative art shows groups of figures on canvass and paper.

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Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967) used lithographs , most of the artists preferred to use crayon , paper although some of them used Canvass. Zadkine was born in Vitbesk BelaRussia.

“Deux Figures from the series Eurogaesischee ,African and Greek art using the cubists angular features , fled Paris during the Second World war because of persecution of his Jewish ancestry”. [1].

The next artist I considered was  Michael Basbous (1921-1981). “Basbous an influential member of the Lebanese artistic community”. [2]. You can see the two local figures using charcoal on paper. “Sculptures made from local stone , Bronze and wood”. [3].

As the Exhibition notes point out “He also drew prodigiously in charcoal ,pencil or Ink”. [4]. After the revolution in 1958 Basbous returned to Radona the village where he was born and worked. “His work was interrupted during the Lebanese Civil War 1976-1990”. [5].

War is and was always present in the Middle East and North Africa. Imperialism has sought to take control of the region either by fomenting war or using its Proxy allies in the region.

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Marwan Kassab Bachi , known simply as Marwan was born in 1934 in Damascus, he studied in Berlin where he now Lives. “Although influenced by French Impressionism it was distinctive Arab Art”. [5].  “In recent years Marwan has been working in watercolours”. [6].

Safeya Binzgar was born in 1940 in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. She was educated in Egypt and England . The notes refer to her love of costumes and Jewelry. “A love of tradition and a desire for costumes and Jewelry . At St Martins School of Art in London she learnt printmaking”. [7].

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Shafic Abboud (1926-2004) was born in Lebanon and studied at the Libanaise des Beaux-arts in Beirut. He moved to Paris in 1947 and lived in both Beirut and Paris. As the notes indicate Abboud like other artists in the Middle East had to flee wars and conflicts. “during the civil war he remained in Paris .Shafic Abboud was a close friend of the Syrian Poet Al Ahman Said. Much of his Lithographs are of abstract compositions”. [7].

Rafa Al Nasiri who died in 2008 was born in Tikrit in Iraq. He went to the fine arts in Baghdad. Iraq known for its great cultural History has being  levelled and destroyed by war and Bombs. The country is now a fiefdom ruled by warring Tribal groups influenced by American Imperialism and its allies. So much of the Art and precious objects have either been destroyed by either the Proxy allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt or the Daash like ISIS or ALQAEDA.

“Rafa Al Nasiri was greatly inspired by the poetry of Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish”. [8].

“He went to Bejing China to study graphic arts -woodcuts and Watercolours”. [9].

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As you can see from his work “The focus of his work was in the Arabic Letter”. [10]. He has since moved to Amman in Jordan as a full time Artist. “Inspired by Arabic Poetry”.[11].

The Last artist on display is Nabil Nahas born in 1949 in Beirut in the Lebanon .You will notice his designs are geometric in design with a very clear perspective. “interplay of Geometric design”. [12].

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 As the notes indicate Nahas produced “A Mural in 1973 for Chemistry Department at University of Yale”. [12].

This review has shown the varied and talented artists living or still working in the Region. Many Art Historians forget the contribution of artists from the Global South. Many of them still have  Euro Centric views on Art . The British Museum must be congratulated in showing aspects of Modern Arab art which shows the use of Arabic lettering combined with the use of Crayon, charcoal and Watercolours. There is much that western artists can learn from these important influences.

REFERENCES

1) NOTES FROM THE FIGURATIVE TO THE ABSTRACT BRITISH MUSEUM.

2) DITTO

3) DITTO

4) DITTO

5) DITTO

6) DITTO

7) DITTO

8) DITTO

9) DITTO

10) DITTO

11) DITTO

12) DITTO

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