An interest in the ancient book Kitab al-Filaha, combined with an appreciation of early Spanish still-life paintings from Velázquez to Goya, provided the inspiration for this latest exhibition by Tariq Dajani. His black and white studies are presented as a series of beautiful, hand-crafted intaglio prints, a rare and highly-skilled method of etching photographic images onto metal plates and then hand-printing them onto paper.
The prints show thousand-year old olive trees, rugged landscapes, and still-lifes of fruit, nuts, bones, wood and stone. Dramatic and theatrically staged, the photographs trace elements from the past, remains of time and history, and lost stories, drawing a line between now and then, life and death - which is cleverly contrasted in the literal meaning of still-life in English and naturaleza muerta (dead nature) in Spanish. The photographs have an intensity of blackness, such as that of old European religious paintings, the quiet background shadows provide a setting, with the focus on subtle details caught in the light. The viewer is encouraged to question the meaning behind these ordinary objects that are presented in such an extraordinary way.
Kitab al-Filaha (The Book of Agriculture) was compiled by Ibn al’Awwam al-Ishbili, a Muslim scholar of al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), in the 12th century. It comprised of more than a thousand pages of text and drawings, and dealt with all aspects of agriculture and the care of livestock. It was the most comprehensive treatment of the subject of its time in Arabic or any other language.