LONDON - The Mosaic Rooms is one of London’s hidden gems. It modestly bills itself as a centre for Arab culture but it has in fact hosted a diverse range of activities from all around the greater Middle East, and is used as a hub for exhibitions, literary events, supper clubs, charity auctions, and much more. Elegantly decked and sensitively structured so as to provide a welcoming canvas for the visual arts, the Mosaic Rooms – even during the quiet times – has a fabulous library/bookshop to engage anyone’s attention. Its even more modest presiding figure, Omar Al-Qattan, is a quiet force on the London Middle Eastern scene. Chair of Shubbak, Festival of Arab Art and Culture, Omar has done more than most for the promotion of Arab culture in the UK.
Omar Al-Qattan and Rachel Jarvis, Head Curator at the Mosaic Rooms, which is part of the AM Qattan Foundation.
Just now the public is liable to catch a superb two-part exhibition there by Hanoos Hanoos, as well as the multi-artist Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. Threads of Light, a solo show by Iraqi artist Hanoos, focuses on Modernist quasi-abstractions that offer up figurative compositions on closer observation. Flat colour-blocks recall collages but line drawings within these colours seem to tell stories that reference the eponymous poem. Iraqi poet Abdal-Wahab al-Bayati composed Threads of Light in a bid to engage with the universal, as does Hanoos, to celebrate and introduce contemporary audiences to the cultural work of previous generations that inspire the next.
Hanoos’ use of poetry and script in their relationship to memory chimes with Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, a project that collates hundreds of artistic visual and textual responses to the tragic 2007 bombing that destroyed Al-Mutanabbi Street – the centre of Iraqi cultural life. Just as Hanoos uses an idiom to weave and connect a complex spiral of perspectives, so too does the Al-Mutanabbi Street unite myriad international voices. The hope is to highlight the literary bridge that connects us all, relating Baghdad to similar sites throughout the world.