Exhibition
14 November 2022–28 January 2023

Wisdom of the crowd

by Abderrazak Sahli

14 November 2022–28 January 2023 | Part of Alserkal Art Week

Elmarsa Gallery is very pleased to present a selection of unique works by Abderrazak Sahli (1941 – 2009), one of the most prominent Tunisian abstract painters of the 20th century. Through a selection of paintings, sculptures and installation works, this exhibition offers to see an oeuvre that remains little known to the public at large.

Starts 14 November 2022

Ends 28 January 2023

Venue Elmarsa Gallery

Warehouse 23

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Born in 1941, Abderrazak Sahli, who was educated in the Koranic school of Zeitouniyya, explored the “defiguration” and “sonorisation” of words and texts as early as 1965. From then onwards he has worked in media as varied as photography, poetry, prints, paintings, books, boxes, bamboo sticks, sculpture, installations. His early figurative paintings later led to more conceptual exhibitions in Paris; combining old photographs and texts in Latin scripts of sonor poetry; other times his works were presented as part of a performance, with paintings and sculptures. His paintings react to a variety of stimuli, mixing unconscious elements with what is conscious, vigorous, and spontaneous. By alternating between the “full” (coloured) and the “empty” (uncoloured), Sahli seems to have endowed his starry mutant creatures with a kind of cosmic energy. The very expressive strength of the lightness of the forms or the shapes and the expressive strength of the whole is well demonstrated in his installation work « Buissons Ferriques » presented by Elmarsa at Art Projects at the first edition of Art Dubai in 2007, which was made of 100 metal stakes topped with painted patterns, in steel sheet metal of 180 to 270 cm height each.

Artist and poet, Abderrazak Sahli spent the majority of his life travelling between France and Tunisia. He embarked on a career in the visual arts in the 1960s, prompted by his friend and mentor Nejib Belkhodja, founder of the Tunis School of Art.

Sahli's abstract paintings are inspired by the decorative patterns and design elements of North Africa's architecture. However, they also draw upon the Abstract Expressionist and Russian Suprematist art that he encountered in Paris.
The artist strips back his subjects to their bare essentials of shape, colour and form. He described his work thus:
"My painting is principally based on a multitude of objects and forms; it translates diversity. The clutter of objects in my canvases is nothing but a representation of the crowd, the dense crowd that is force and movement."

Abderrazak Sahli

Untitled

Acrylic on jute

206 x 140 cm

Abderrazak Sahli

Untitled

Acrylic on jute

127 x 108 cm

Abderrazak Sahli

Untitled

Acrylic on jute

142 x 142 cm

Abderrazak Sahli

Untitled

Acrylic on jute

242 x 157 cm