Abu Dhabi Art, in partnership with Warehouse421 and Meem Gallery, presents a survey of contemporary works by Palestinian art historian and artist Kamal Boullata. Comprised of the artist’s last three series’, Bilqis, Addolcendo and Angelus, these interconnected bodies of work exemplify Boullata’s sophisticated use of geometry, composition and colour.
Created between 2013 and 2014, two triptychs, made up of acrylic paintings on canvas from the series Bilqis, reference an episode from the Qur’anic story of the legendary Queen of Sheba, in which, upon entering the court of King Solomon she mistook its glass floor for a sheet of water and lifted up her skirts to avoid getting wet. Over the centuries, features such as fountains and tiled facades, alluding to glistening surfaces touched by water became one of the defining aesthetic characteristics of courtly architecture in the Islamic world. In the process, symmetries and spatial ambiguity in visual perception fostered the evolution of geometric abstraction in Islamic art. In his exploration of this tradition, Boullata’s vertical and diagonal lines intersect at variable angles to create a horizontal composition with the transparent layers of free-flowing brushstrokes sharply delineated by the precision of hard-edged painting.
Key examples from the 2016 - 2017 series, Addolcendo, form a group of works on paper that examine the dimensions of time in musical passage. Created by employing the highly refined pochoir technique, the works have a distinctive, three-dimensional quality creating the illusion of the folding and unfolding of paper. Boullata’s vivid use of colour draws the viewer’s gaze across the composition, stopping abruptly and starting again as colour fields develop, and then break, creating a sense of duality. This contrast is mirrored in the manner that the work is at once both playful and measured, both spontaneous and organised. The sharp, angular lines of the works and the preoccupation with the square remind us of the artist’s earlier series Bilqis.
Created in 2017, as the sequel to Addolcendo, Angelus, Boullata’s most recent series, borrows its name from that given to the three cardinal times of daily devotion. Executed in acrylic on canvas, key works from the series reflect the artist’s ongoing preoccupation with the movement of time by evoking the day’s experience of light at dawn, noon and sunset, and by extension, the three phases of living through childhood, youth and old age. This correlation is embodied in hues, whose variability has been theoretically recognised to be the product of mixing the primary colours of red, blue and yellow. Consequently, each work in this tripartite cycle of geometric abstract paintings serves as an aesthetic object of contemplation that invites its viewer to experience an instant of timelessness.