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EL SEED


EL SEED

Templates of Love

Text by eL Seed

 

What is love? It’s an eternal question to which humanity is constantly seeking an answer. However hard we can try, that single word will still remain slippery; easy to say, harder to define. In many languages around the world, a single word contains a multitude of meanings.

 

In Arabic there are fifty words for love. It is a fact that struck me deeply when I first learnt it. Love in Arabic is not confined to a single shape, it moves in many phrases and expressions, it has many forms, and each one carries its own name. In that expansion I discovered how love found new ways to linger in the language I was learning, and how that language had grown to encompass the various forms love can take.

I came to realise love cannot be contained. It is not a single thing, it lives among us, it is many-sided, multifaceted, at times literally: love comes to us with many faces. It’s a force that lives with and between many bodies and  minds. In this exhibition I wanted to explore and celebrate the myriad  expressions of love that we can find in language and in the world.

 

I searched for the lines we follow, working to capture a sense of the varied shapes love can take. As I painted, the act of putting pigment on the canvas became a dance, a choreography of its own, a manifestation of love. Taking the architecture of the Arabic language, I translated the words for love into my own personal script: loops of ribbon-like brushstrokes.

Canvases became an alternative to the templates that language creates to represent emotion, but also functioned as a creative key to understand the limits of form itself.

When I look at the works I made for this exhibition, I see that I didn’t use black ink as I normally do. At a dark time in history, I had instead moved away from the darkness. Love works to honour the light. Without even realising it I had adapted my process to the power of love: it called for something more from me.

 

Travelling to Murano, in Italy, I took this concept further, I worked with the glass masters in the furnace to once again transform these expressions of love into three-dimensional sculptures. The fire spoke, the glass listened, love appeared as light, it refracted, bent, and bound in front of my eyes. In the lucidity of glass, I found the structures of love I had designed becoming alive in a whole new way. The innate energy in their creation lingered and in light, love found a new form. Love, I was reminded, is not merely a word: it is an action, a force that lives within us and changes and grows with every passing day. Learning to love, and learning the many forms that love can take, is a work that takes a life-time. These works, these templates, are just part of that journey; a fragment of love trying to find its form.

 

 

eL Seed uses Arabic calligraphy and a distinctive style to spread messages of peace, unity and to underline the commonalities of human existence. His artwork can be found all over the world and consistently aim at unifying communities and redressing stereotypes.

Born in 1981 in Paris to Tunisian parents, he was disconnected from his Arabic roots, speaking only the Tunisian dialect of the language at home. In his teenage years in a kind of quest for his identity, he began to delve into his own heritage and learned to read and write standard Arabic. It was during this journey that he began to develop his artistic style of calligraphy, which would later bring him worldwide acclaim.

He found that Arabic calligraphy was a way of building a link between his equally important French and Tunisian backgrounds and as he matured, eL Seed began to use that same calligraphy as a tool to build bridges all over the world. Whenever he works within a community, he spends a long time researching to find an appropriate quote to summarise the voice of the community he is working within and to underline his key principals of love, respect and tolerance.

His work has been shown in exhibitions and in public places all over the world including most notably on the facade of L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the favelas of Rio di Janeiro, on the DMZ in between North and South Korea, in the slums of Cape Town and in the heart of Cairo’s garbage collectors’ neighbourhood.

In 2017, he won the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture. He was named a Global Thinker in 2016 by Foreign Policy for his project ‘Perception’ in Cairo. In 2013, he collaborated with Louis Vuitton on their famous ‘Foulard d’Artiste’.