By Munira Al Sayegh
Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim studied art at the Emirates Fine Arts Society in 1986, mentored by artist and friend Hassan Sharif and the by the avant-garde poet, Ahmed Rashid Thani. His formal education was in Psychology at the Al Ain University and this subject is one that constantly feeds into his artistic discourse. His work had moments of natural stylistic intersections with Hassan Sharif's work. At times Sharif would paint Ibrahim's work, creating a new art work from an existing one. Their relationship and ties to the landscape created bodies of work that were very similar aesthetically. Ibrahim was an active community member within the budding art scene and continues to be a vital member and voice in the expanding arts and culture scene across the UAE.
The 1990s represented an extremely active decade for Ibrahim; he explored his practice deeply and moved away from binary and traditional means of depiction. It was during this time that Ibrahim showcased in exhibitions with Hassan Sharif. Ibrahim founded the Art Atelier in Khorfakan Art Center in 1997. The end of that decade in 1999 marked the year in which he no longer had access to his Atelier, and all his works were moved into two trucks. Searching for a space to store the works and not having any luck finding one he had taken the works to a place where the municipality used to burn trash, and subsequently burnt all the works in the trucks out of frustration. As quoted by Ibrahim in the interview from the catalogue But We Cannot See Them (2017, pg. 120) "I had no choice at the time, I did not have a place to store my artworks. Then suddenly comes this flash, 'What the hell, I'm doing all of this and they don't respect my art? Let it go.' So I burned all of it. A half hour later, I went to do my art again." The only works saved were those gifted to his friends and family, consequently any Ibrahim work dating prior to 1999 is extremely rare.
The symbols in Ibrahim's paintings and sculptures are often denoted as primitive strokes, originating from psychological theories and ideas. These symbols are a language that he has created for himself, and can be seen transforming from 2-D forms in his paintings and drawings to 3-D forms in his sculptures. These forms are built by basic shapes; the square, the circle, and the triangle. These same shapes are then consistently and meditatively repeated in an obsessive yet gentle manner, which in turn creates symmetric patterns. The repetition, and proximity to one another bring a sense of dynamism into his work. There is a natural evolution of movement that unfolds through the extension of one shape into the other assuring a sense of connectivity and building. These series of works known as "Forms" are the result of a composition created in the mind, thus the artworks create themselves without artistic deliberation. Untitled (Lot 10) is informed of the artists fascination with his local surroundings and environment.
Ibrahim's practice engages in a variety of artistic mediums; his scope of work ranges from sculptures made of papier-mâché mixed with soil and found objects -both natural and man made, paintings of symbols repeated, drawings of unanimous reoccurring lines and land art amongst other mediums. The works made by the artist are directly informed by the nature he is surrounded by in Khor Fakkan, a coastal town that has the unique positioning that sits between the Indian Ocean and the Hajar Mountains. Ibrahim's work mitigates between the tensions of urban development and the demise of nature. As stated in his artist statement "The contradictions and clashes in my works are uncomfortable, but they are catalysts for the tensions that I use in sharpening and honing my relationship to the environment and nature." (Ibrahim, M. A, 2018, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim- Elements. Sharjah Art Foundation, pg. 11.) Ibrahim's direct relationship with his surroundings is the source of his inspiration, he states "Inspiration always comes from things that nature creates and the artist can only care about and be in harmony with the spirit of the site by empathizing with a branch of a tree, a stone or anything else that can lead to the application and confirmation of this idea of harmony." (Ibrahim, M. A, 2018, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim- Elements. Sharjah Art Foundation, pg. 12.)
The 1980s and 1990s created a strong base for all practicing artists to build on in the generations to come in the UAE. The artists of the time began to gain recognition later in their careers, by way of exposure of their works through various platforms like the UAE pavilion in the Venice Biennale. Their insular and productive nature in their earlier years allowed for honest discourse, which directly affected the output of the work being created. The budding group did not look for external recognition in any form, rather they asked for the opinions of one another. The fabric of the conceptual movement in the UAE was built on the network created amongst the individual creatives producing at the time.
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