Currently on view, at Delfina Foundation London, is an exhibition of expanded and minimal conceptions of calligraphy by Saudi artist Nasser Al Salem bringing together poetic line sculptures, print and hand-drawn renders.
Curated by Maya El Khalil and presented in partnership with Shubbak Festival 2019, Al Salem’s exhibition titled Amma Baad draws inspiration from the almost impossible to translate Arabic word that is usually found in formal Arabic correspondence and might be described in English to mean ‘what comes after this,’ or ‘following on from that’ conjures a sense of anticipation or expectation.
For this first solo UK exhibition, Al Salem presents a compact multidisciplinary show mediating on his explorations into an ‘expanded conception of calligraphy’ with a new body of works exploring the relationship between language, time and space. On entering the basement gallery of the foundation, the first work encountered is Amma Qabal (2019). This artwork exists as a book displayed on the wall, as an instruction manual, consisting of a series of photographs, texts, drawings and calligraphy that are a result of a trip made by the artist to the ancient city of Mada’in Saleh. The city with staggering megalith structures and monumental rock-carved façades is located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, roughly halfway between Petra and Mecca and was the Nabatean’s second city. Al Salem’s visual and written instructions inspired by the site is a gesture connecting history to the present with room for future speculation. Next to Amma Qabal is a floating minuscule black cube titled 1KM x 1KM (2019) inscribed on its surface with the word ‘amma baad’ rendered in Kufic calligraphy. The work comments on an inability to resolve physical scale by moving closer to a work that remains minuscule and is a gesture speaking of the collapse of time, space and language. Elsewhere in the exhibition, lines as gestures are evident in the black painted aluminium sculptures 1 Second (2019), a single floating line marking the passing of a second in time and Simultaneity (2019), a black steel circular sculpture that represents the continuous cycle of information exchanges and convergence of time.
Overall, Amma Baad is a presentation that both poetically and poignantly explores the spaces of rupture that exist somewhere between language, space and time. It is an invitation for re-considering our perception of time and space.
Nasser Al Salem (b. 1984, Mecca) lives and work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al Salem was an artist-in-residence at Delfina Foundation in 2014 and 2018.
The exhibition runs from the 2nd of July until the 10th of August 2019.