eL Seed’s New Scripts – Interview by Johnny Hanson for ARAMCO WORLD

Let’s start with “calligraffiti.” There are quite a few artists who do it now. Did you coin the term?
No, to be honest with you, this is a term that has been used the first time in New York for a show, I think in ’84. A show created by Jeffrey Deitch for some calligraphy artists and some graffiti artists from New York. He had this vision 30 years ago that calligraphy and graffiti would merge together. To be honest with you, me today, I don’t even use this word to define myself. I’m just using calligraphy in my artwork. I do sculpture, I do canvases, I do art installations. I’m trying to get out of the box that I think I used to be in a few years ago.


More: http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/July-2017/eL-Seed-s-New-Scripts

(Interview) Yazan Halwani: Uniting The City.

middle east revised

action_shot_yazan_halwani/Photos: Yazan Halwani (private album)/

Although he’s only in his twenties, Yazan Halwani is a name you will hear a lot in Beirut. For the last couple of years his work is among the most notable ones when it comes to Arab street art. Halwani has adorned walls of Beirut (and cities all over the world) with portraits of the writer Khalil Gibran and legendary singers Fairuz and Sabah, as well as everyday local heroes like Ali Abdullah, a homeless man who died one winter’s night in 2013 and Fares, a 12-year-old flower seller from Hamra street.

I meet Halwani in a quiet cafe in Gemmayzeh, a vibrant area of cafes and small shops in downtown Beirut. He’s relaxed and easygoing, with a big smile on his face, and remains of paint on his fingers. We move from topic to topic, he speeks with ease and eloquence. We talk about…

View original post 2,053 more words

Remembering Louay Kayali: Life Is On The Streets.

middle east revised

the match seller/The Match Seller by Louay Kayali/

Louay Kayali was a Syrian modern artist, a brilliant painter born in Aleppo in 1934. He began painting at the age of eleven and held his first solo exhibition when he was eighteen.

Kayali died in 1978, from burns incurred from his bed catching fire, reportedly from a cigarette (he suffered from depression, leaving many to think it was suicide).

Kayali studied art at the Accademia di Belle Arti, and met Syrian artist Wahbi Al-Hariri there – they would remain friends for the rest of Kayali’s life (Al-Hariri became his mentor). Later on, Fateh Moudarress (also mentored by Al-Hariri) and Kayali represented Syrian modern art at the Venice Biennial Fair.

laundrette/The Laundrette/

Kayali graduated in Rome in 1961 and returned to Syria where he started his career as a fine arts professor at Damascus University, where Fateh Moudarres also taught.

Kayali’s artwork changed during his life, he…

View original post 436 more words

The Art Of Mohammad Khayata.

middle east revised

khayataweb/Walking on Thread, photo via Mohammad Khayata website/

I was first introduced to Mohammad Khayata’s work while I was strolling down the streets of Beirut last November. On of his works (Walking on Thread) was exhibited in a gallery I passed by and it caught my eye immediately. I told myself I should remember his name and investigate more about his art when I come back home.

Khayata is a painter and a photographer, born in Damascus in 1985. His first solo exhibition was organized in Lebanon, three years ago.

mohamad kh

Khayata’s work is beautiful – it’s sensitive, powerful, thoughtful. In Bits and Pieces, he portrays symbols of what went on in Syria, combining stories and memories like a patched work stitched and tied to a canvas.

The images capture real life grief – from the portrait of a man wrapped in a patched quilt made of memories to…

View original post 229 more words

Salahi’s Garden & What’s Inevitable.

middle east revised

el_salahi/photo: Behind the Mask 1 by El-Salahi © Haupt & Binder/

Ibrahim El-Salahi is a Sudanese artist, an important figure in African and Arab modernism. El-Salahi is considered a pioneer in Sudanese art and was a member of the Khartoum School that was founded by Osman Waqialla.

Hassan Musa writes about El-Salahi (he first heard stories about him when he was a teenage boy): “I was fascinated by the idea that an ordinary Muslim man could live as an artist, because in my imagination they were unreal creatures who came out of European literature”.

El-Salahi’s international success soon turned him into a national hero, so much so that in 1970 the Department of Tourism distributed a poster in which El-Salahi posed in his studio, with the caption “Sudanese artist at work”.

mid-late-60s-6e_0/photo © Ibrahim El-Salahi, via Tate/

El-Salahi developed his own style and was one of the first artists to elaborate the Arabic calligraphy…

View original post 369 more words

New livery for Dubai Metro carriages featuring artworks by accomplished artists – Courtesy October Gallery London.


Dubai, UAE; April 28, 2015: The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), in collaboration with RTA, is redefining the UAE’s artistic landscape by working with local and international artists to wrap the Dubai Metro carriages with works of art.

The spectacular artworks of prominent artists, Abdulqader Al Rais, Rachid Koraichi and Safwan Dahoul have now debuted as Dubai Metro carriage wraps, following the unveiling of the first Dubai Metro carriage wrapped with a spellbinding photograph by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

More: http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/artists/koraichi/dubai_metro.shtml

AN INTERVIEW WITH KASHYA HILDEBRAND, DIRECTOR OF THE KASHYA HILDEBRAND GALLERY A Global Vision of Art Feb 07, 2015 Interviewby Valerie Behiery, Islamic Art historian, Ph.D

“The combination of emotion, personal experience and consciousness tends to provide the perfect ingredients for a meaningful work of art.” (Kashya Hildebrand)

During her successful 14 year long career in finance, Kashya Hildebrand lived in New York, Paris and London. Visiting the museums and galleries of these art capitals ultimately led her to change careers. Kashya Hildebrand established her first gallery in Geneva in 2001 and, after stints in both Zurich and New York, is now operating out of London. Her internationalism and her plural heritage –Hildebrand has a Pakistani father, an American mother and a Swiss husband—are reflected in the gallery’s emphasis on global contemporary art. The artists represented, many hailing from the Middle East and East Asia, produce transnational work that often challenges the binarisms of East and West, modern and traditional and craft and art.

imageKashya Hildebrand, director of the Kashya Hildebrand Gallery / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

Your artists come from around the globe, in particular from the Middle East, Iran and East Asia. Did you set out to establish a gallery specialising in global contemporary art or are you simply showing artists whose work you are drawn to most?

I most definitely show artists who I am drawn to but contextually I feel that the artists represent the eclectic, internationally diverse, global world we live in.

Do you think that art can play a critical role in forging more positive relationships between cultures or is this just naïve idealism?

I certainly do believe that art can play a role in bridging cultural divisiveness and feel that, by creating a high level of awareness and a platform for artists, we can bridge an important gap. Our recent exhibition RCD>PLY>RWD>FFWD>STOP>EJ in October-November 2014 featuring artists from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Palestine illustrated this point to me given the warm reception the exhibition received.

imageRCD>PLY>RWD>FFWD>STOP>EJ / Randa Mirzas, Beirutopia series, curated by Aya Haidar / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

imageRCD>PLY>RWD>FFWD>STOP>EJ / Ayman Yossri Daydban, curated by Aya Haidar / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

imageRCD>PLY>RWD>FFWD>STOP>EJ / Yara El Sherbinis, Buzzwords in the foreground, curated by Aya Haidar / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

How does your own plural identity influence your selection of artists and shape the gallery’s overall vision?

Having straddled three continents over my life, I am well aware of what it means to live in an international community and also of the perceptions and biases that occur when one is isolated and living in a small community. The privilege of this platform has allowed me to maintain an open mind regarding our programme and to recognise the importance of having an international programme.

The work you show possesses both tremendous aesthetic appeal and craftsmanship even when the medium is recycled socks! Both beauty and craft are often considered irrelevant to contemporary art but your artists demonstrate their power.

The artist’s intent will always play a critical role in the selection process. There is, however, no doubt that I appreciate beauty and craft. Perhaps it was the exposure to oriental rugs at an early age… at any rate, I adore the works of Lalla Essaydi, Ghada Amer, Anish Kapoor, Shirazeh Houshiary, Farhad Moshiri and Idris Khan just to name a few and I would put them all in that same category. How wonderful when an artist can synthesise an important thought or concept and translate it into beauty.

imageLalla Essaydi, Installation view / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

imageAbu Dhabi Art booth with Khaled Al-Saai in background and Lalla Essaydi in foreground / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

imageAbu Dhabi Art booth with tapestries by Ahmed Moustafa / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

Could you say a few words on what you look for in an artist and his or her work? And who were the first artists you showed in the original Geneva gallery?

I am always intrigued when artists are driven by their own passion and creativity and touched by their social and economic standing. The combination of emotion, personal experience and consciousness tends to provide the perfect ingredients for a meaningful work of art. One of the first exhibitions the gallery ever launched was of Farhad Moshiri in 2001.

Calligraphy continues to play an important role in the work of many contemporary artists from the Muslim world, as witnessed by the gallery’s current show ‘Memory of a City’ of Khaled Al-Saa’i’s work.

It is such a privilege and honour to host the exhibition of Syrian artist Khaled Al-Saa’i here in London. We have followed his practice for the last nine years and have seen the most incredible evolution of his work. The more classical modern form of calligraphy painting has recently been replaced with extraordinary mixed media interventions reflecting the contemporary moment. The reference to protests, demonstrations and graffiti reveals the current socio-political unrest in his homeland. The titles he attaches to each work are also extremely revealing, expressing his own pain and concern.

imageKhaled Al Saai / Inner Journey, 2014, mixed media on paper, 50×70 cm / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

Such artists reveal the depth and breadth of calligraphy-related or inspired work. This type of work is greatly prized in Iran and the Arab world, but does it have equal success with European collectors?

Clearly this work is coveted in the Middle East and recognised as important within their classical modern art history. With that being said, there is a graphic contemporary reference point that the artists seek that also has some Western appeal. The varied media of such work such as sculpture as well as mixed media also bring a new energy to this genre and are appreciated by Western collectors. For example, when an artist makes their first pilgrimage to Mecca, the work then reflects this seminal moment and is suffused with a new contemporary perspective that can be extremely powerful.

If the West conceived of modernity as a complete break from the past, many non-Western modernities translated traditional elements through the prism of the changes that modernity brought about. Much of the work you show is innovative while also integrating elements associated with pre-modern artistic traditions. Why does this combination intrigue you?

This combination intrigues me because it reveals the fact that all art is grounded in classical art history and has reference points that provide a solid foundation for an artist’s development. Given our presence in the Middle East over the last nine years, it has become clear to me that in order for collectors from the region to feel comfortable with the contemporary art movement, they must have some reference points. I find this perspective helps create the narrative that allows one to travel to the present day.

imageA Hidden Order, installation view / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

Did your professional background in finance help you with the daunting task of establishing a gallery or did you nonetheless have to go through a process of trial and error?

My successful finance career potentially left me feeling too confident when I first started my gallery. Trial and error is indeed a wonderful way to describe the journey. After more than 13 years in this business, I do feel that we are getting closer to defining our gallery programme and to reflecting the spirit of our vision. The fact that financial markets are often driven by exogenous forces and commodify certain assets is similar to the art market so for sure there are some similarities.

imageNobuhiro Nakanishi / Layer Drawing, Light of the Sunrise 1, 2012, Mixed Media on Sculpture, 28,5x31x198 cm / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

imageKatherine Tzu Lan Mann, installation view / Courtesy of Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

The Kashya Hildebrand Gallery has been open now for over a decade. What do you consider to be its biggest accomplishment and how do you see it evolving from here?

The biggest accomplishment is to have put together a wonderful team of dedicated and passionate individuals who are driven to present a creative and insightful perspective. My colleagues are just as important as the artists who help drive this vision and perspective.

I thank you so much. IAM wish the gallery much continued success and hope you will keep us posted on your upcoming shows.

Thank you for giving us this wonderful platform!


UK Relents After Blocking Syrian Artist’s Visit by Benjamin Sutton on January 21, 201

After initially preventing him from traveling to the UK, the British government has granted Syrian-born, Sharjah-based artist Thaier Helal‘s second visa application, allowing him to attend the opening of his first solo show in London.

“We had reapplied for Thaier’s UK visa and now it’s been approved,” Minna J. Apostolovic, head of public relations at Ayyam Gallery, told Hyperallergic. “We’re trying to get him on the next available flight to London.”

Thaier Helal (photo via Facebook, used with the artist's permission)

Helal is attempting to travel to the UK in time for the January 22 opening of his exhibition Landmarks at Ayyam Gallery’s space on New Bond Street, even though the Home Office — the ministry that oversees security and immigration — turned down his first visa application. The artist had provided all the requisite documents including bank statements, a letter from the University Of Sharjah (where he lectures), and recommendations, but immigration officials reviewing his first application said they were “not satisfied he [was] genuinely seeking entry to the United Kingdom as a business visitor. In addition [they were] not satisfied that [he] intend to leave the United Kingdom at the end of [his] visit,” according to theIndependent.

“I just don’t understand why I have been refused entry to the UK, I am just an artist who wants to be at the opening of my first solo exhibition in Britain. It means so much to me — it is really a career achievement,” Helal told the Independent. “I truly believe that the only reason preventing me from being allowed into the UK is my Syrian passport, it was my belief that Britain was an open society which embraced creative freedom and the promotion of cultural exchange.”

Ayyam Gallery, which was founded in Damascus and also has exhibition spaces in Dubai, Beirut, and Jeddah, is unfortunately accustomed to having to deal with immigration officials’ inscrutable decisions. Last year Israeli authorities prevented one of the gallery’s artists, Khaled Jarrar, from traveling to New York City for openings of exhibitions in which he was featured at the New Museum and the Whitebox Art Center.

Artists with non-EU passports attempting to travel to the UK and North America have long faced similar difficulties. In 2013, the Algerian artist Sofiane Belaskri was denied a four-day visa to visit the UK for the opening of an exhibition and ensuing workshops at the Free World Centre in London. Last year, the Canadian government denied the Afghan artist Hanifa Alizada a visa to attend a photography symposium in Ottawa.

 Thaier Helal, "Assi River" (2013), mixed media on canvas (courtesy the artist and Ayyam Gallery)