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Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim & Martin Holzschuh

Thursday, 21.12.2017, 7 - 10 pm

For this one-night exhibition, I have invited Martin Holzschuh to juxtapose an engraving and a painting with a drawing by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, which is in our collection.

Cristiana de Marchi has written a text about the exhibition. Scroll down.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim (born 1962) is an Emirati artist from Khor Fakkan and one of the pioneer "five" conceptual artists from the United Arab Emirates including Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi, Hussain Sharif and Mohammed Kazem.

Martin Holzschuh, a graduate of the Städelschule and a former master student of Michael Krebber, lives and works in Frankfurt am Main.

Entropy, or the law of predictability
Cristiana de Marchi

Studio visits are often a revelatory moment: artists (nearly without exception, and including myself) tend to be of extraordinary generosity in showing around, exposing their works, narrating anecdotes, explaining genealogies of ideas and indulging in detailing their conceptual and physical process.
Knowing Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim for 10 years now, I last visited his studio in Khorfakkan one year ago. I was accompanying a group of UAE based artists and art enthusiasts who were just as delighted as I was in [re]discovering the incredibly packed space where Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim mostly works, whenever he is not interacting with his beloved natural environment of the Emirates East coast. Locally and regionally well-known and esteemed for having introduced Land Art in the Gulf Countries, Ibrahim is a prolific artist and a fond creator of vernacular languages.
On the occasion of my artist residency in Frankfurt last September 2017, I was introduced to Martin Holzschuh and to his work and I had the chance to visit his claustrophobic studio at the Atelierfrankfurt, during a beautifully lazy afternoon. Works were piled up and spread around the what seemed-to-be a tiny space – perhaps only due to the charged amount of works, objects and materials stored and produced there - a parallel and echoing context to that recurrently experienced at Ibrahim’s studio.

The „ “ event curated by Carolin Kropff paired, in fact, one of Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s 2007 ink on paper, Untitled 1, with Martin Holzschuh’s approx. 2003 “Kaltnadelradierung", which can better translate as an etching-drawing, realized at the time when he was studying at Städelschule. The visual connections between the two works are quite undeniable, and yet when it comes to pencil down the elements of resemblance, one realizes there is no immediate point between the works. To a more attentive examination though, those elements resurface: Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s drawing is a doodle-like expression-driven composition where the single patterns can be interpreted as a language, a mapping or an exercise to reduce disorder into order. That same circumscription of a desire seems to characterize the framing device created by Martin Holzschuh, a neatly four-part divided frame bearing four content-charged and pair-opposed texts:

Bleibt so wie ihr seid / stay like you are
Fürchtet euch nicht / have no fear
Alles ist gut / everything is great
Es ist gleich / it is all equal,

over-imposed on a bouillon-like background, an intentionally “dirtied” surface that allows the prominence of the writing while simultaneously negating it. The centerpiece is a nearly-figurative, red-palette drawing that meaningfully evokes and dialogues with the work on the opposed wall, a 2015 oil on canvas, both from a chromatic and a compositional perspective and both Untitled. The human figure captured in the painting is distorted, constrained in an unwelcoming contour, forced into an uncomfortable posture if protracted in time.

Time is a dimension that, although never explicitly evoked, permeates all three works presented together.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, “entropy”, which can also be described as a “lack of order or predictability; [a] gradual decline into disorder”, can be interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system, which "… always increases with time".
Questions about the level of control, the predictability of the final outcome, the role of disorder within the compositional decision, arise when it comes to examining the works by these two artists, which are both characterized by an apparently prevailing note of disorder and casualty combined with a sense of balance and predetermination that sound nearly irreconcilable.

As the curator stated, the selection of the works intended to show an older work and a segment of Holzschuh’s less known practice: “I liked the 'framing', the letters, the pattern of his print and saw a connection to Mohamed's work, the repetition, the all over marks. And inside the frame, there is this figurative, quite painterly image. That linked to the painting on the opposite wall. The graphic work of Martin is hardly known, and the selected painting is also an exception in his oeuvre”.
Personally I would have been interested in and intrigued by the initially suggested juxtaposition of Martin’s painting with Mohamed Ahmed’s Sitting Man, a pictorial series spanning many years (and precisely 2010-December 31st, 2015), realized in many different media (oil, acrylic, pencil, bullpen…, on paper, canvas, fabric…) and obsessively portraying (if that can be said for a figure without a head) a man sitting on a chair, with erected back and his hands lying on his thighs. Whilst the outfit constantly changes, the posture remains identical and witnesses of an inhabited habit.
Potentially, that could have opened up on more consonances between these two artists who had a radically different artistic parcours, yet show undeniable points of contact: rather than closing a circle of correspondences, the investigation in the entropic nature of the composition and of its reduction into order would emerge even more vibrantly and reassured.


Christiana de Marchi is an artist and curator. She lives and works in Dubai.

Kindly supported by Kulturamt Frankfurt.


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