A CELEBRATION of the fullness of life is expressed in the paintings and drawings of Hussein Salim. They pulsate with energy made possible by the adept co-mingling of colour and line. Ordinarily an artist tends to be a great colourist or with the ability to render line. Yet here one is faced with a wonderful use of both such elements: little drawings appear, disappear and reappear as colour bathes them in light or gives them a rich, energised life. At the same time, Salim, who comes from Sudan also exhibits a sense of the sensual reality of paint and surface as various textures invite a closer look. Perhaps what is most pleasing, however is the great variety of subject and methods – large canvases as well as smaller paper works, not to mention the fact that each work in the beautiful upstairs addition to the gallery, creates enough interest to exist in themselves, irrespective of the greater whole which is the exhibition.
His line use is often lyrical and draws from ancient wisdom of the Middle East, Africa and possibly India. This one can glean given his use of ideographic or pictographic imagery where a sort of writing system stimulates the desire to decode. Often such writing systems are free flowing and calligraphic, at other times they are more symbolic like images from Tarot cards. This interest in language – that uniquely human capacity with the power to concretise the vibrational quality of the word into a fixed and yet mobile writing system – offers the viewer the chance to play diviner. The colours stir emotively and there is an obvious sensual component to his work. In other words, the interplay of colour and line in their rhythmic pattern suggests order in the form of song or dance or storytelling. It is a transmission of information in a kind of ritualised, mystical dimension.
In such respects, one is reminded of Totem images of the Navaho; aboriginal carvings and abstractions; the early Western Modernist abstract tendency as well as hieroglyphics. But it is not sufficient to just render symbols. One should work through the medium. In this respect, the artist’s patience with acrylic and other mixed media interventions draws the eye in and suggests at times, a kind of electrical surge of energy. This is further demonstrated by the sheer complexity of some of his canvases in contrast to the more expressive works on paper – what may be termed “colour studies”.
One may be able to trace some of the colours and seeming endlessness of the surfaces as the ridges and furrows of the dessert, where as the artist puts it, one notices “the little things”. For it is the state of right intention and right thought that opens the mind and senses to the reality of what is. If only one can still the “chattering monkey” and concerns of the mundane. It seems the artist accomplishes this in many respects: Suddenly, one sees the slight nuances between colours or the shift in intensity of line or the well sequenced and ordered gridding structures of some compositions. In a sense, one might argue that to the extent Salim demonstrates this facility through art, so he offers the viewer a metaphor for a kind of openness that has the capacity to find anew and to make anew. For that space, if you will, is not simply dictated by serial logic alone, but a kind of right brained focused intensity. At the same time, his interest in language, writing and symbols amalgamates that inchoate inability to define with the capacity to name, categorise and communicate with others.
All in all, the viewer is sure to be treated to an exhibition that is vibrant and in my assessment, quite joyous. To the extent that the artist appeals to the eye and mind, so the viewer becomes a kind of co-creator to the artist. The work thus acts as an intermediary between artist and viewer and that in turn may affect the quality of thought, emotion and action. This, then argues for the relevance of art as utopian and ideal, even where death and darkness lurk, that too can me surmounted in mystical reverie or simply by holding one’s emotions around such issues. Salim expertly does so through his play of line and colour.