Throughout history, there have been numerous depictions of the holy site of the Kaaba. Often, these works of art tended to adopt more decorative approaches to exploring the spiritual and geometric qualities of this sacred building.
Iraqi-Canadian conceptual artist, Mahmoud Obaidi’s latest show, The Cube, at Meem Gallery in Dubai, ruminates on an entirely unique notion in regards to the hallowed structure. The artworks were previously included in the exhibition, Hajj: The Journey Through Art at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, curated by the British Museum.
Exploring the architecture of the Kaaba, as a cuboid building with the capacity to generate energy, Obaidi reflects on the elemental qualities of the Kaaba. Using the cube as the foundation of his research, Obaidi was able to discern that the cube is the only shape which contains multiple smaller cubes in perfect equation, which possess 48 energy directions and generate a force that travels upwards in a pyramid shape. This intensified current is said to form an invisible sphere of energy that surrounds the shape.
“When I approached the topic of the Kabaa,” Obaidi tells Selections, “I decided to consider and interpret it not only as an artist, but as an architect. I considered the idea of the Kabaa as a building, […] I asked myself, ‘Why does this building look like this?’ ”
In an effort to further examine the role that these structural and elemental properties play in intensifying the spiritual energy around the Kabaa, Obaidi constructed a series of four stainless steel and glass sculptures which he accompanied with their sketches to represent the four stages of energy, entitled: The Cube, 1000 Directions of Energy, The Hidden Pyramids Within the Cube and The Invisible Sphere Around the Cube.
“As an architect, I think that the most appealing shape is that of a cube […] I feel that a cube, as a building, is the most comfortable from the interior and exterior. I mean comfort in the sense that it is minimalist, so I started to do research regarding this idea and I started to look through old books. Some of the research revealed, that the cube is the most spiritual type of building, because each cube contains 1000 directions of energy, and each cube conducts energy from all four sides.
From afar, the show seems a far cry from any sort of blatant political statement. Although Obaidi’s previous works have been more politically charged, the artist refrains from branding himself in any particular way, as he reveals:
“My work is political in general, but that is not always the case in all of my works, I do not work with fixed themes I prefer not to be labelled as just a ‘political artist,’ I create work that inspires and thrills me, the Kabaa as a subject is innately political, when you think about its history and all of the past wars that were fought over it. In general I didn’t think politically, I chose to explore the architectural aspects of the cube. My work always has a message, whether political or otherwise.”
The Cube is on view at Meem Gallery in Dubai through August 31.