September 21 – October 6, 2016
The spiny bodies of Mohammad Abusal’s cacti emerge from the canvases of Thorns in Bloom full and soft, like bodies ripe with sleep. As unique as the individuals who gaze at them, these are not stayed botanical drawings that aim to capture the essence of a plant species, nor are they still-life drawings of static arrangements. These are living portraits, and give the sabra a new artistic vocabulary.
Showcasing a variety of techniques through several different painting studies, the exhibit gathers luscious watercolour sketches on squares of paper beside striking and fluorescent acrylic on oversize canvas. Bold and subtle, heavy with fruit or light with papery blossoms, some silhouettes take almost human shape. The paintings variously evoke a man’s ribcage, the curve of a woman’s breast; soft folds of green flesh protected by a sheen of at times invisible thorns.
Abusal, who developed the paintings first as a technique of meditation, paints the cactus like it has never been seen. The works reveal a true study of form. Markedly different from his widely shown photography and installation-based exhibits–which make bold and incisive political commentaries–the cacti reveal first a sensitive artists eye, and beneath a reflection on the politics of Palestinian symbol.
To look at the works the plants come alive, their flowers open, they grow plump with water. Figured alone, in shared pots, lined up on a sill or a balcony ledge, or seen close-up, the colour and diversity of a single plant is on display, and Abusal’s artistry in full bloom.