Sunday, May 19, 2013

Invisible Light in Paris... Lumière Invisible...

As the sunshine is still making itself rare, I decided to catch a glimpse of another type of invisible luminosity in Paris yesterday. This was in fact the exhibition Lumière Invisible, currently held at the Institut du Monde Arabe, not far from my favourite place, Le Jardin des Plantes.

Just in front of the imposing main I.M.A building is a strange white futuristic 'blob' that houses the exhibits - in this case large metallic sculptures that bring together painting and three-dimensional constructions and Western and Eastern culture, aesthetics and art forms. This aim is shared by the institute itself, whose cultural mission is to enhance the exchange between France and the League of Arab nations.
Designed by Jean Nouvel, the building was inaugurated in 1987, winning the Aga Khan award for Architecture, and earning the nickname 'the Arab Beaubourg' in the process, due to adventurous design and features that recall the ambitious spirit of the Centre Georges Pompidou. 

One particularity of the façade are the photo-sensitive metallic panes behind the glass. These form a geometric patchwork design that act as an elaborate sun shield, with the central apertures contracting and dilating according to the intensity of light and heat generated by the sun. 

The depth of the sculpture is revealed by the glow...
 Needless to say, these haven't been over-exerted for some time, in view of the grey skies above! In fact these sophisticated panels are a reference back to traditional oriel windows, the Mashrabiya or Shanasheel whose intricate lattice woodwork, and stained glass offered protection from harsh sunlight.
One of the three light columns...
 Lumière Invisible is a collection of seventeen sculptures, the result of the meeting of minds between the sculptor Mehdi Qotbi, and painter, Yahya. Both artists are of Moroccan descent, yet neither have made these origins their sole defining cultural reference point, but seem to have used these as a springboard to reach far beyond. 
This large sphere is actually enormous...
Sharing a similar aesthetic viewpoint, Qotbi and Yahya stress how this art has resulted from their unusual alliance; two-dimensional art expressed in the three-dimensional. As they say, their constructions belong "neither to the East, nor the West" but are simply expressions of art, and as such are not confined to any cultural limitation. 
'Bird' motives...
Like the light that plays with the sculptures and pours over and through their forms, the aesthetics of this union between painter/sculptor defuse the metal with a unique warmth and life. 

The calligraphy and motives form, quite literally, the basis of the sculptures. However, these are not texts with a specific meaning to be read.

 Qotbi, painter inspired by the traditional calligraphy of Islamic art has used the intricate arabesque forms to explore beyond the sense of the words and signs in order to create an abstract language of decorative art.

 The forms that I thought looked like little birds, in a kaleidoscope design, could in fact be no more than that or perhaps far more. These forms have no particular linguistic mission, but this means that the sculptures can 'speak'. to us more openly. None of the works on display were given titles, so the pieces were not fixed representations, nor were they confined to a specific interpretation set by their authors. Yahya the sculptor does not actually speak Arabic, but this has not restricted him in his art; on the contrary. 

Born in the UK to a Jewish Moroccan father and Christian Anglo- German mother, converting to Islam as an adult, Yahya has not been bound by. nationality, religion or culture. Through his work, he transcends barriers and transmits the message that art brings people together, leading them beyond themselves, as a guiding light, to the absolute. Inspired by the play of light on metal and glass that he saw in art work in Morocco, he has explored the potential of metalwork in all its forms.


 Qotbi follows the same theme, as he talks of the light within us all, a form of wisdom to which we must aspire and communicate to others. This vital luminosity glows inside us, yet its source remains invisible. 
The pieces of Lumière Invisible interlace the work of sculptor and painter, but also called on the skills of many other craftsmen, who from steel, brass, bronze and copper drew a light, luminous art over a period of six years. There was no explanation to the material realisation of the works, but this reinforced their magic.

The sculptures are suspended on walls, or appear to float in front of us, like spun metal, embroidered lettering and tracery, delicate and massive at the same time. 

I felt the same sense of puzzlement as I did when eating a Cadbury's Flake as a child - how exactly did they make this ruffled chocolate?
How was the metal cut in such depth? How was it soldered together, and shaped?

Well, it's raining again today, it literally hasn't stopped - invisible light, indeed!!! Everything is very green however...
Play of light reflections and shadow...

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