In Meem Gallery’s latest solo-exhibition of Berlin-based Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata, recent watercolors are displayed alongside older workers from the artists’ oeuvre. Born in 1942, Boullata gained cultural currency all across the Arab world for creating works that fuse Arabic words, calligraphy and struggles for Palestinian recognition and identity.
As a Fulbright Scholar in the 1990s, Boullata was led to Morocco where he conducted extensive research on Islamic visual art. In his decades long career, he has exhibited widely and his work is today held in numerous major public holdings like the British Museum in London and the Sharjah Art Museum in the UAE.
His latest solo-exhibition at Meem Gallery was attended by some of the regions most critical and important minds, including Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, founder of the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation, Elias Khoury, prominent Lebanese writer and public intellectual, and Swizz Beats, an American hip-hop producer.
Boullata’s exhibition at Meem Gallery combines recent abstract watercolor paintings with two series of silk-screens. The exhibition’s title, Addolcendo, is a nod to the technique used to make them, intimate works on paper best exhibited under soft light. The technique was originally used in the early 20th century in Paris, used by Boullata to heighten the viewer’s attention to the vivid colors and composition of each work. The Addolcendo series effectively creates the illusion of a folded and unfolded piece of paper, an opening up between two chasms, which I saw as metaphorically related to the issue of Palestinian identity which, for the past several decades, has been in a near constant state of corrugation.
Unperturbed by the recent UN anti-settlement resolution passed in December 2016, Israel has continued to build on Palestinian occupied land unabashedly, completing ignoring the UN’s suggestion to return Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.
As such, it’s hard to comprehend a time when Boullata’s would be more necessary, more cogently urgent, and more sought after than today. The metaphorical illusion to folding and unfolding should not be taken lightly, instead, it appears the works are intended to reveal themselves to the viewer as a kind of permanent opening, never fully perforated, whereby the lines can be seen to signify ideas of division and identity so tragically unique to the state of Palestine today.