In the late 1960s, Mahmoud Sabri experienced a total change of direction on life and art, coming away from his previous political and social notions and moving towards a scientific understanding of the universe and therefore art. He stripped his art down to scientific equations and explored the infinite creative possibilities that he believed had transformational qualities.
Spurred by the space, technological and scientific advances of the 1960s, Sabri saw quantum physics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, as a basis for creating art and linking the two together. In 1971 his ideas were formulated and published in a manifesto entitled Quantum Realism – an Art of the Techno-Nuclear Age and the art he produced following this principle was exhibited with the launch of his manifesto in Prague in the same year; it would sadly be Sabri’s last exhibition before his death. The artistic language of the new art (colour, form and structure) is derived from the system of line spectra associated with different atoms and the relations linking spectral-lines, energy levels and electrons. “In the 1980s,” he said, “my work changed its direction by focusing on the analysis of the structure of the atom. This transition from molecular to atomic structure manifested itself in a further change of artistic language. In Phase 1, only selected visible spectral lines were involved; these were translated into colour areas and treated as the distinctive colour characteristics of atoms/ molecules. In Phase 2, both visible and invisible spectral lines were involved and treated as the distinctive colour characteristics of atoms and space-time… These drawings are to me (as the mathematical equations are to a mathematician) a means of verifying the reality of the artistic structural solutions as well as grasping their possible deeper meanings and implications.” (Roxane Zand, Ed., Geometry and Art in the Modern Middle East, Milan 2019, p. 140).
Sabri believed that Quantum Realism addresses the uniqueness of our age in a new form of relation between humans and nature, or a new form of perceptual activity. He saw the old perception of mass-object-form as being gradually negated and replaced by a new perception of energy-process-structure. The artistic creativity provided Sabri with the possibility of unifying art and science, and looking at the fundamental laws governing nature as a basis for his avant-garde art. His dramatic transition from the figural to geometric and mathematical forms meant that the latter half of his work bore closer resemblance to the mosaics of his native Iraq than he had anticipated, and while never abandoning his concern for the socio-politics of the region, this latter evolution took him to more universal and philosophical concepts.
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