Ahmad Shibrain (Sudan, 1931-2017) Composition No.22

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Lot 60
Ahmad Shibrain
(Sudan, 1931-2017)
Composition No.22

Sold for £ 47,750 (US$ 65,344) inc. premium
Ahmad Shibrain (Sudan, 1931-2017)
Composition No.22
mixed media on paper, framed
signed "Shibrain" in Arabic (lower left), executed circa 1960s
140 x 60cm (55 1/8 x 23 5/8in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in the 1980s

    THE LARGEST WORK BY AHMAD SHIBRAIN EVER TO COME TO MARKET

    Conceiving of calligraphy as primarily a form of spiritual practice, Shibrain explores the primitive and mystical functions of the Arab letter form in a manner seldom seen in the history of Islamic calligraphy. Academic, formalized and rigid, calligraphy was traditionally the highest form of religious and court craft in the Arab world.

    Shibrain completely subverts these principles; densely inter-locked forms, relief-like imprints and a sense of spontaneity all pervade the composition. For his canvas, Shibrain chooses the rugged aesthetic of the urban wall, breaking the constraints of conventional "easel" painting and ultimately questioning the validity of the very notion of an "artistic surface".

    Ahmed Shibrain is an integral and leading figure of Modernism in Sudan. Shibrain was born in 1931 in Berber, Sudan. In the early 1950s, Shibrain studied at the Khartoum Technical Institute when the institution was the hub of contemporary African art of the region and in 1957 he went onto studying at the Central School of Art and Design in London. Alongside his influential contemporaries Ibrahim El-Salahi and Kamala Ishag, Shibrain was one of the founders of The Khartoum School in the 1960s. The Khartoum School was a movement of visual artists who cultivated a new visual style called Sudanawiyya, which expressed local and Pan-African traditions alongside Western influences.

    Through the use of calligraphy, the aesthetics of hurufiyya (transforming Arabic letters into abstract shapes; named after harf the Arabic word for letter) and Islamic motifs, the movement attempted to convey the cultural fabric of Sudan. After returning to Khartoum, Shibrain became the head of the graphics department at his former college in 1970, and its dean in 1975. He was known for his design of presidential medals, postal stamps and various ebony murals.

    He held numerous exhibitions in Africa and abroad, published several books and critical essays and held many functional and academic positions in Sudan. In 1966 Shibrain founded the non-profit Shibrain Art Gallery which showcases Sudanese artists.

    "From time to time I tackle different topics about the state of contemporary art in Sudan. But I have never told the whole story of the School of Khartoum, and how it came to constitute a school of aesthetic importance to the visual culture of Sudan in the last fifty years of the 20th century.

    Up to 1960, our visual art in Sudan was fixated on the traditional European schools and copied the same academic styles and technical methods. By 1960 and when I came from abroad after finishing my specialization in graphic design, I had been appointed as a lecturer in the College of Fine and Applied Art of the University of Science and Technology (previously Khartoum Technical Institute). And, after a short time, I asked myself, if design constitutes measures and dimensions based on an international common ideals, then where is the cultural uniqueness in these ideals?

    We have to originate our own art through our own interpretation to realise the full conceptual qualities of our vision. And that was what has happened. Then I started to tackle this through my daily graphic design, through Arabic calligraphy by giving rich treatments based on an abstract interpretation of the Arabic letter. The experiment came to be very exciting and appealed more to my inner feeling and impressions. This was my very original start as a Sudanese graphic designer considering our national culture as the proper base to create a kind of art that I felt was authentic with certainty.

    And you may also ask, why these trends became so active and so influential in contemporary culture. And if you wait for the reason, I can say that Arabic calligraphy with its flexible motion and with its famous decorative notation comes to be more than calligraphy. It is a body of aesthetic cultural production intending to elevate the Islamic being to its full contemporary representation in the plastic art. In brief this was the moment of my real involvement in art starting from 1960 up today.

    Prof. Ahmed Shibrain. 1998, Khartoum - Sudan
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