Writing Art History Since 2002

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Exploring themes within geometric abstraction 

© Suzette Bell-Roberts

The exhibition at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, curated by Amin Alsaden, is Mehdi Moutashar’s first solo show in Qatar. It showcases new and existing works by the artist in various mediums, exploring themes within geometric abstraction and connecting these to memories of ‘home’, all while allowing visitors the freedom to self-interpret.

Born in 1943 in Hilla, central Iraq, Moutashar’s artistic journey bridges the contemporary art world and the rich tapestry of Arab-Muslim heritage. Rooted in an unwavering dedication to preserving cultural continuity, he masterfully taps into the limitless reservoir of Arabic calligraphy and ornamental motifs, infusing ancient traditions with revitalised vitality. 

© Suzette Bell-Roberts

In Moutashar’s hands, the region’s aesthetic traditions undergo a profound renaissance, rendered relevant once more through his original and innovative methods. His creations stand as bold declarations against the rigid confines of modernist dogma, embodying a spirit of defiance and reinvention. Moutashar’s artistic endeavours transcend the realm of visual expression, offering profound meditations on the nature of existence and the enduring resonance of cultural memory. Beneath their surface lies a more profound philosophy – a belief in the interconnectedness of the personal and the universal, the mundane and the cosmic. His creations serve as bold assertions against the rigid dictates of modernist orthodoxy, embodying a spirit of defiance and continual reinvention. His works become conduits, inviting viewers to explore the intricate web of interwoven narratives that bind humanity to its collective heritage. 

For Moutashar, visual and spatial expressions translate internal thought processes into tangible forms. Each intricate design is imbued with meaning. In this way, his works become more than mere aesthetic objects; they are reflections of the artist’s ceaseless inquiry into the nature of existence, drawing us into a dialogue that transcends time and space.

© Suzette Bell-Roberts

In his journey of artistic refinement, he strips away extraneous elements to distil his creations to their essence. His works defy easy categorisation, rejecting labels like Abstraction, Minimalism, or Op-Art in favour of a singular vision transcending conventional boundaries. In a deliberate act of simplification, he embraces a monochromatic palette dominated by the stark contrast of blue, black and white. In an interview with the artist, he explained, “I use blue as a medium and not a colour; it could be any colour. Colour is one of the materials building a space. All animate material has a power, a potentiality, which gives it a reality. Blue is the last colour that we see before in light before it turns black”. 

With a meticulous devotion to rhythmic precision, mathematical harmony, and geometric purity, Moutashar finds a profound reconnection between Islamic art and his cultural lineage through these geometric and kinetic abstract compositions. The mathematical and organisational principles inherent in Islamic artistic traditions had long held a magnetic allure for him and served as his inspiration. 

The exhibition ran from 26 October 2023 to 5 March 2024. For more information, please visit Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

Suzette Bell-Roberts is the Co-founder and Digital Editor of ART AFRICA magazine.

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