For his fourth solo show at Dar Al Funoon, Fareed Abdal presented a series of new works that contemplate the immense capacity of one’s mind to transform perceptions into reality. The new body of work explores a correlation between thought and form. Zahra Husain met with the artist.

Fareed Abdal’s paintings much like personality are multi-layered. An architect, artist, teacher and intellect – these are just some of the labels people attach to him. However, the one word, in our opinion, that would summarize this master creator would be ‘simplifier’.

“The one thing that I have always attempted through my art is to simplify ideas. Art for me is a medium through which I present an alternate opinion to the public. I take a complex text and break it down into images and perceptions. So what might seem like a complicated religious text on war and victory on the surface, at its core may represent finding graciousness in defeat. This is what I want to bring to light, that what may seem, may not always be. I want people to find spirituality by questioning their beliefs,” said Fareed about finding his purpose through art.

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His latest collection, Figurative Calligraphy, explores the mind’s immense capacity to transform perceptions into reality, the cor-relation between thought and form. Each painting in the collec-tion represents an intricate web of words, shapes and colours. Webs that get untangled on a closer look. Every stroke of the artist’s ink explores calligraphy, religion, and translation. Words and letters take the form of faces and figures, ideas are ex-pressed hidden in ink, and although, they might seem strewn around recklessly on the canvas, they aren’t! Every little detail is placed there strategically by the artist.

“The idea for this particular exhibition occurred to me while I was experimenting with calligraphy. As I was writing I was no-ticing silhouettes in the voids and spaces between letters… compositions between compositions, and so I began pursuing the figure,” said Fareed, while talking about the inception of his latest collection.

Over the last two decades as an artist, Fareed has endeavored to deconstruct and challenge society’s norms and ideas. His art is a catalyst for enriching conversations, be it about traditions, beliefs or even the ongoing disputes in our region surrounding the origins of our mythical and sacred history. Figurative Calligraphy explores the idea of duality through concepts like ‘Habeel’ and ‘Qabeel’ and ‘Ismael’ and ‘Israel’. Words are projected as solid forms, and experiencing the art is more like ‘reading in between the lines’.

“Every piece of art from this exhibition makes me think of cultures that use masks to express psychological states and archetypical emotions. I like to think of this body of work as an exploration of some of the masks (and shadows) of our own culture… an inner and outer exploration of self vis-à-vis society,” said Fareed.

To him, true beauty lies in harmony. His relentless pursuit of art, aesthetic and beauty, is also about finding balance. Balance between what was said, what is written and how it will be received.

Having received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1980, followed by a Master’s Degree in Architecture in 1983 from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Fareed ran his own private practice under the name Fareed Abdal Architects & Consultants. While art had always been a hobby, a form of meditation and relaxation for him, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that Fareed Abdal began to explore his role in society as an artist. In his opinion art plays a very important role in reinstating cultural sensitivity to the Middle East. An idea, the acceptance of which, can go a long way in bringing peace and prosperity to the world around us.

“The Arab world, once at the front of development and innovation, is today in derelict condition. The simplistic assumption that to be unified we must all be the same is limiting, and as constituents of this environment it is our duty to encourage diversity and its expressions through art, literature and performance before attempting to define that which binds us.”

Highly personal yet universal concerns spur Abdal’s multi medium practice. Geographical, social, and spiritual motifs inform his body of work. For a viewer, Fareed Abdal’s paintings are not just a work of art, but a book of revelations. Every time one looks at his art, a different detail pops out, a story is revealed, an idea seeps through and throws light on a perspective that hasn’t yet been considered.

In addition to being a consulting architect and practicing artist, Fareed Abdal is also on the faculty of the College of Architecture at Kuwait University.

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