January 17, 2020 - The Mosaic Rooms - Mohmmad Omar Khalil: Homeland Under My Nails
January 17, 2020

The Mosaic Rooms

Mohammad Omar Khalil, Asilah Connection, 1992. 24.5 x 33cm. 

Mohmmad Omar Khalil
Homeland Under My Nails
Selected Prints (1964-present)
January 22–April 26, 2020

The Mosaic Rooms
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The Mosaic Rooms announces the first major UK solo exhibition of Mohammad Omar Khalil (b.1936). Khalil is a painter, master printmaker and mentor, one of the most significant artists of his generation from Sudan and the Arab world. Homeland Under My Nails, curated by Abed Al Kadiri, presents prints by Khalil from the 1960s to the present day. 

The exhibition opens with a series of self-portraits and early works. Khalil, now 83, has long experimented with self-portraits as a means of self-transformation. One of his earliest self-portraits from 1968, at only 2cm by 2cm, challenges the form and medium. Much of the artist's early work was destroyed in the flood that hit Sudan's capital in 1988. The few works that survived are displayed here alongside early experimentations from the artist's time studying at the Academy of Florence, showing the evolution of his style. 

The exhibition then looks at the international sensibility of the artist, who trained in Sudan and Italy, and has lived and worked between New York (USA) and Asilah (Morocco) since the 1970s. Moving to New York he quickly began incorporating pop culture into his work—stamps, music and film. The Harlem Portfolio brings together the life and spirit of the neighbourhood in a series 5 metres in length. In 1978, Khalil took part in the first Asilah Festival and continued to return as the festival's head of studios for three decades. Works including Asilah Connection (1992) show him exploring the materiality of light in the coastal town. 

A search for light and the use of black is the driving force in Khalil's work. He says: "In blackness, I see degrees and shades of rich, complicated colour, more intense than in other colours, roaring and loud."

The third part of the exhibition reveals Khalil as a collector of influences and explores his relationship with music in works such as Tombstone Blues (1986). Music has long been a source of inspiration for the artist: "Music touches me, I feel sounds going right through my body and I translate them visually. Only engraving and its technical delicacy can express these sounds within me."

Khalil's dedication to printmaking is unique in the Arab world. He is also an influential mentor who has shared his mastery of technique with students internationally. 

Sudan continues to be a point of orientation for Khalil who says: "My homeland exists in my nails, it expresses itself whenever I create an artwork." This exhibition is a long overdue celebration of his life's work. 

 

About Mohammad Omar Khalil
Born in 1936 in a village near Khartoum, Mohammad Omar Khalil studied at the School of Fine and Applied Arts in the Sudanese capital, alongside members of what is now termed the Khartoum School. Graduating in 1959 he was appointed Head of Painting at the school before moving to Florence in 1963 to study frescoes and mosaics at the Academy of Fine Arts, Florence and later, Ravenna. From Italy, Omar Khalil moved to New York where he was to stay and still works today. Recent solo exhibitions: You Don’t have to Be, Aicon Gallery, New York (2019), Mohammad Omar Khalil, 50 Years of Printmaking, Contemporary Art Platform Kuwait (2014). Group exhibitions: Art Sudan, Meem Gallery, Dubai (2011).

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