In his first foray into Doha’s vibrant art scene, contemporary Sudanese artist Salah Elmur contemplates on his childhood recollections living by the Blue Nile in “River Ceremony” exhibition which opened on Tuesday at Al Markhiya Gallery at Doha Fire Station.
Twenty-five acrylic paintings in varying sizes and a collection of head sculptures bearing Elmur’s distinct artistic flair are on show in his first solo exhibition in Qatar.
Born in a village by the riverbanks of the Blue Nile in 1966, Elmur grew up watching her mother knit crochet designs of imaginary animals, people and geometric shapes which are apparent in the works on display.
Through his paintings, he exhibits a prolific visual vocabulary drawn out of keen observation of the world around him. Using heavy colours, he paints images of people and animals, reminiscent of his life back in Khartoum, in a disproportionate and distorted manner which contributes to the unique appeal of the works.
He evokes fond memories of his childhood through figurative-abstract paintings such as “Carnival Day,” “The Trumpeter,” “The Joker” and “The Robot and the Fish” while providing the viewer vignettes of life in his rich and culturally diverse country.
He even digs deeper into his family history in some of his works, one of which is titled “With the Local Cat” in which he paints his subject on canvas as if she were posing for a photo in a studio. His father and grandfather used to have a photo studio before he was born, and whose archive of photos and negatives have inspired some of his current works on display.
One of the eye-catching works on show is “Photography of Cotton Workers,” an ensemble of 12 head sculptures aptly positioned adjacent to 10 small portraits of people and animals in 40 by 50 canvases.
One of the most important contemporary artists from Sudan, Elmur belongs to the Khartoum School, an art movement that attempts to capture Sudan’s diverse culture and unique identity. A product of the prestigious Colleqe of Fine and Applied Art at Sudan University of Science and Technology, Elmur has a career spanning three decades during which he has participated in group and solo exhibitions in East Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America.
His works are collected widely, some of which are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden in Marrakech.
He has published 12 children’s books and directed six short documentaries and fantasy films which have been shown at international film festivals. Art enthusiasts have until November 22 to see Elmur’s artworks.
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