"Geography Torn" exhibition
19-3-2014 to 10-4-2014
"Torn Geography is a compendium of my experience over the last five years. Artworks that express my feelings and senses of the place through my stay and travel; my attachment to other places I pass by, and other places that seem inherited. After I have displayed it in Paris and Greece, I presented my artwork in Palestine through cultural institutes' network of the French Consulate in Jerusalem. The artwork present the problematic human attachment to the "geographical" place and the continuous struggle over a period of time...the disappearance ...and what remains." - Mohammed Musallam
I met Mohammed Musallam shortly after I moved to Gaza. I already knew about his art, but this time I had the opportunity to visit his workshop in his house's basement in the north of the Strip, close to the sea. "Peaceful" rarely goes along well with "Gaza" in most people's minds, but this is the feeling one gets when he sits and takes in the sights of Mussalam's crafting studio.
The paintings of "Geography Torn" are particularly striking when taken in that quiet and welcoming context: they are violent, stark contrasts of bone white and blood red, the tortured body of the land scorched and laid bare, its borderless unity shattered. The fractured geography that Musallam reveals through his paintings, interspersed with bits of news clippings, like so many remnants of futile words and letters written that did not prevent the descent into division, is not just one of the physical, material realms. It is also and above all a geography of the minds and souls, a metaphor for the deep mental divides that exist both between the people of Gaza and their neighbors, and within the Palestinian people itself. This dimension is also palpable in the artist's simple and efficient installations.
Yet there is an indomitable sense of hope and optimism in the painter's artistic expression, the notion that geography, as torn as it may be today, will always trump human designs, and that the land, whether that of the earth or of the mind, has its own enduring purpose that will come around before the end.
Ten years after Mussalam's first exhibition in the network of French Cultural Centres, this new series of works, to be shown in the French Institutes of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and beyond, is a testament to the work and vision of a major Gaza artist and scholar, who puts as much energy into expressing his art as he does passing on the flame as a dedicated teacher.
Anthony Bruno Director of the French Institute in Gaza