EL SEED, Tradizione Proverbiale
Opening 23 March 2017 h 7 p.m., Via Argelati n° 24, 20143 Milano (MI)
Until 30 June 2017
Galleria Patricia Armocida presented Tradizione Proverbiale, the first Italian solo exhibition by the acclaimed French-Tunisian artist eL Seed, from March 24th through June 30th, 2017.
The artist presented a selection of medium and big size canvases created for the exhibit.
In the Arabian Peninsula, fourteen centuries ago, a large village named Okaz, situated near Mecca, was known as the rendezvous for jousting poets. Each year, these linguistically shrewd men would meet at a commercial and artistic fair to engage in a competition of elegance and poetic flare. It is reported that after these battles of wits, the victorious poems were embroidered onto textiles, which would then be hung from the walls of the Kaaba; but only seven remained on those sacred walls. And they gave life to classical Arabic and some of its rules and structures. The Mu’allaqat are stories about anonymous men belonging to the proverbial tradition, who influenced the future by retelling, in a simple yet eloquent way, day-to-day happenings. Keeping with proverbial tradition, eL Seed’s art relays reality and society in his time, and aims to influence the future.
A proverb is often defined as a wise saying or a message that is universally understood. For eL Seed, “Nothing is more malleable than a proverb, not in its wording but in its meaning. It expresses the truth of an experience and these experiences are as varied as the human race. In light of this, I interpret the proverbial tradition as an invitation to universal self-questioning and self-reflection. The messages I use not only create bridges between people who recognize themselves in a specific collective imaginary, but in fact, his intricate compositions fuse the beauty of Arabic calligraphy and the coarse impact of French urban art into a distinctive style the artist calls Calligraffiti. Working mainly with themes that seem contradictory, eL Seed’s art reflects the reality of mankind and the world we live in today. His works, dynamic and colorful, are eye-catching not only for the words themselves and their meaning, but also for their movement that lures viewers and steers them toward a new way of seeing.
“The contemporary artist finds in his or her message, the limits of their own language – says eL Seed – Classical Arabic is my chosen contextual instrument since it is, in my opinion, one of the least discriminatory languages in current usage. Even those who do not read Arabic script can derive an idea of its meaning from the curves and forms of the words. This dual nature within calligraphy is what attracted and inspired me. When I create my art I write, therefore I express things in words, but at the same time I draw, therefore I express things in images.
The esthetic and the style of an artistic piece intervene in the transmission of a message and can be as influential as the message itself. I would qualify my art pieces as proverbial in the sense that esthetically they represent the deeper message put forward”.
The universal messages of peace, tolerance, coexistence, and dialogue between people and cultures, which are the foundations of eL Seed’s poetics, aim to have an esthetic and emotional impact on viewers: his goal is to inspire a new perception and view of reality, challenging prejudices and clichés.
A resplendent example is Perception, a piece created in March 2016 in Cairo, an image of it was leaked on social media and went viral worldwide: from the highest point of a city that is crowded and clearly dilapidated, emerges a monumental public art installation that utilizes 50 building facades to create an anamorphic piece. An ambitious project that was received with great enthusiasm, consecrating eL Seed’s international stature.
With Perception, the artist questions the prejudices that can arise against a community based on the differences that distinguish it, using - hidden in the Calligraffiti - the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Coptic Bishop from the 3rd century: “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first”.
Tradizione proverbiale gives a literal perspective to all of those messages with a humble pretension of creating dialogue between people, cultures, and generations. These messages are relevant to the place or the community where eL Seed’s artwork is installed, but they have a universal dimension, which can be understood by all. Each art piece is telling the story of a human experience, where art became the pretext for a journey of discovery from New York to Paris, or from Cape Town to Mumbai.
They also weave connections between the trivial reality from which they stem and different forms of metaphysical understanding”.
eL Seed’s intricate calligraphic compositions call not only on the words and their meaning but also on their movement, which ultimately lures the viewer into a different state of mind. TED Fellow since 2015, he works primarily with subjects that seem contradictory, his art reflects the reality of mankind and the world we live in today. eL Seed installed his work on public spaces, galleries and institutions on every continent. From the streets of Paris and New York, to the Favelas of Rio Di Janeiro and the slums of Cape Town, his contemporary approach aims to bring people, cultures and generations together.
Some more notable solo shows: Tradizione Proverbiale, Galleria Patricia Armocida, Milan 2017; Zaraeeb, ArtTalks, Cairo, 2016; Declaration, Tashkeel, Dubai, 2014; Lost Walls, Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2014; The Walls, Itinerrance Gallery, Paris, 2012.
Some important group shows: Codici Sorgenti, Visioni Urbane Contemporanee, Museo Palazzo Platamone, Catania, 2015; Calligraffiti 1984-2013, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2013; Arabic Graffiti, Pergamon Museum, Berlin, 2012.
In 2017, eL Seed 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, Condé Nast Traveler recognized him as one of the years ‘Visionaries’ for advocating peaceful expression and social progress through his work.
eL Seed has also collaborated with Louis Vuitton on their famous 'Foulard d'artiste'.