Combining Yemeni heritage and contemporary art [Archives:2008/1166/Culture]

June 23 2008

Alia Ishaq
SANA'A, June 15 ) “Melody in Color,” an exhibit of Yemeni painter Nasser Al-Aswadi's work, opened at the French Cultural Center in Sana'a this week, featuring 32 different pieces by the internationally acclaimed artist.

Born in Taiz in 1978, Al-Aswadi has worked in the art field for more than 13 years. Although he graduated with a degree in architecture and taught art at several private schools for six years, he found himself practicing his lifelong passion – painting – instead.

The works in this exhibit, which will continue until June 30, combine common Yemeni heritage with contemporary art techniques and style. As Al-Aswadi explains, “When you first look at the paintings, they look contemporary, but when you take a closer look, you realize it's about our heritage.

“They [the works on display] employ different types of artistic techniques, such as painting and engraving, in addition to photo transfer,” he says of the current pieces on display. The pictures use hazes of color and layers of shapes, sometimes interspersed with Arabic words, to create abstract images referencing Yemeni heritage.

According to Al-Aswadi, these works were inspired by mosque interiors and Yemeni-style stained glass windows called qamariyyas, along with the elegance of Arabic calligraphy. He notes that the goal of his exhibit is to increase exposure to contemporary art in Yemen.

While he admits that many Yemenis have responded positively to his latest works, which he calls “a good sign,” he says Yemenis “still are way behind” when it comes to appreciating contemporary art, adding, “We need to start introducing this type of art to them more often.”

This is the seventh solo exhibit for Al-Aswadi, who has participated in other group and solo exhibitions in both Yemen and France.

French Ambassador to Yemen Gilles Gauthier, Italian Ambassador to Yemen Mario Boffo and Yemeni Culture Minister Mohammed Al-Maflahi all attended the opening of the exhibit, which is part of a continuing program at the French Cultural Center where new exhibits and artistic activities will be presented each month.