Monday, 30 May 2011

Walthamstow... twinned with Gaza*

It is not often that my somewhat diverse worlds collide but last week they did.

I took part in a local exhibition with my arty community of Walthamstow which was great because it's the first time I've done any art for almost a year. Called The Long Conversation, this exhibition explored the relationships between poetry and art through painting, print, artist books and installation On the opening night I was amazed to discover that it also included work by a guest artist from Gaza - Majed Shala.

Majed Shala is a founding member of the Shababeek (Windows) Artist's Group in Gaza which has consistently tried to promote contemporary Gazan art and provide education and training for young Gazan artists. Shala's work has been exhibited internationally over the years but last week he was here for his first UK solo show at the Arab British Centre in London. This show was organised and coordinated by the Arts Canteen project headed by Aser El Saqqa who just happens to live in Walthamstow. As a consequence he arranged for two of Shala's works to feature in The Long Conversation as well.

Majed Shala uses Arabic text, cut up and arranged in vertical forms on canvases layered with texture and vibrant colour.These distinctive compositions suggest classical Arabic calligraphy while undermining the form at the same time. The arrangement of materials and shapes also creates a strong visual tension between abstraction and the figurative which are contained simultaneously within the image.

The show entitled Breathing the Air consisted of a series of paintings exhibited in the gallery space at the Arab British Centre (ABC) which was also a surprise. The last time I went to the ABC in 2004 it was an  earnestly old fashioned organisation in a completely unmemorable office space. However, in the past few years things have definitely changed! With a small and young team of staff, ABC now focuses much more on culture and, with the help of Off Screen who share the building, it now houses an impressive collection of art by some of the Middle East's most interesting contemporary artists. It also has a great library ... but to be fair it always did. 

* Twinning idea from Aser El Saqqa and Arts Canteen

A conversation with Majed Shala:
Wednesday 1 June, 6 – 8pm
Mangobajito Gallery
107 Kingsgate Rd
Inside the Kingsgate Community Centre
London NW6 2JH
Tel 020 73724144