Ethereal Color Fields Convey an Artist’s Meditative Practice
Simultaneously informed by spirituality, nature, and the legacy of modernism, Egyptian-American artist Bassmi Ibrahim has developed a signature style of organic abstraction that draws out the integral qualities of his media in ethereal and vibrant compositions.
The influence of various stages in Ibrahim’s life is evident in his works. His decades-long path ranges from New York in the 1960s, where he exhibited concurrently with color field painters Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, and Paul Jenkins, to Clearwater, Florida in the ’70s, where he studied metaphysics and homeopathy, to a return to painting in 1999, and led him to create his current body of work.
In series such as “Isness” and “Awareness,” Ibrahim creates paintings that are largely about control and chance. Working with large-scale calligraphy brushes laden in various painting media, he carefully applies paint while also allowing for its natural texture and tendency to move freely and seep into the page. He refers to this meditative approach as painting from the “gut,” rather than the mind—his rich, layered washes of harmonious colors over white grounds result in abstract, twisting compositions that unsurprisingly resemble organic, yet almost unrecognizable forms. “None of these paintings insist on a literal meaning, instead they speak in a language we intuitively recognize, a language that mimics the movement of water, the massing of clouds, the budding of flowers,” the artist explains. “Whatever is recalled for us, it is the play of presence and absence that asserts itself as the fundamental rhythm of life.”
This interest in spirituality, nature, and art harkens back to the dictums of Rothko, who he names as his spiritual mentor and a great influence on his work. “Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness,” the canonical artist once said. In his long and still-developing artistic practice, Ibrahim continues this legacy of attempting to make visible the inner workings of the individual soul.