Karen Dabrowska

Arab Weekly Article

Originally published: 27th November 2016

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Abdallah Khaled’s Paths of Light shine in London

Exhibition Curator Maria Luisa Trevisan notes that Khaled deepens his study of light by using colours and materials rather than placing emphasis on drawing.


Figures on a journey towards the light, a painting by Abdallah Khaled.

Figures on a journey towards the light, a painting by Abdallah Khaled.

London - The 21 acrylic and oil paintings in the solo exhibition Paths of Light of Algerian-Berber artist Abdallah Khaled invite visitors to take a spiritual journey with mythical characters as their guide to colourful, magical landscapes.

London’s Arab British Centre has displayed the varied works in its small first floor gallery and on the stairs leading to it. Brown, red and blue are the dominant colours. People and animals are fused together to create mysterious images that stretch to infinity with no clear beginning or end. What do these images represent? The interpretation is left to the viewer.

“There is always a message in art – it has to transmit something. Without a message it just decorates the walls,” Khaled said.

The light referred to in the title of the exhibition is not just an external light.

“It is an internal light – the light of the self,” Khaled said. “Light is a metaphor. It is not only to be able to see but also to be able to search for the greater good that everyone should be capable of bringing from themselves. The colours I use are symbols of peace… Art is a way of educating the public, to make them more open and more sensitive towards different cultures, different peoples and different means of expression.

“For me, art is like a light house on the shore that is illuminating the way for the ship that arrives. My art is something to focus your mind, stimulate your intellect and touch your soul. Without light there is no meaning, there is no energy, there is nothing.”

Although Khaled’s words and art works may have religious overtones, he insists that he is a lay person who does not follow all the dictates of Islam. He believes in God and the values that his culture’s traditions give him.

His Berber identity comes through in his work. He emphasised that it would not make sense for him to come to Europe, to live in Europe and to paint in exactly the same way as European painters. That is why he has brought his own cultural heritage with him and that is what comes through in his work. It is a way of expressing himself and contributing something to humanity.

In a blue acrylic on wood painting, a sombre figure with a critical expression on its face looks at other strange figures searching for meaning and wanting to make sense of the world. Most of the figures in Khaled’s paintings stand with outstretched hands. They appear to be searching and rejoicing in their journey towards the light.

Composizione 3, one of the largest works in the exhibition (120cm x 100cm), is the most colourful creation with paths represented by twisted lines. Burred, mysterious images combine with triangular and square shapes.

Exhibition Curator Maria Luisa Trevisan notes that Khaled deepens his study of light by using colours and materials rather than placing emphasis on drawing.

“Amidst the chromatic clots, brushstrokes, marks, scratching and colours that range from orange and red-yellows to greens, blues and violet-blues, one denotes dancing and moving figures reminiscent of cave paintings on North Africa’s rocky landscapes. Khaled’s paintings illustrate a strong connection to his ancestral land and his Berber origins with its people, traditions and culture,” Trevisan said.

She underlined that the artist’s works amounted to “a declaration of peace and freedom, respect for one another, for diversity, thus expressing universal values and enriching all of humanity”.

“In view of the current difficult times we live in, Khaled’s message is an invitation to take positive action in search of the common global good. His paintings incorporate ancestral symbols such as the cow, the bull, the bison, the horse, warriors, women, spears, clubs, forks, mud huts and the walls of ancient cities,” Trevisan said.

“He depicts the rich and varied indigenous cultures of North Africa, the flavours of his homeland, the scent of the desert, the colours of the Atlas Mountains, as well as the instinctive abstract expressionist and graffitist mark of contemporary ‘Western’ artistic culture,” she added.

Khaled’s complexity as an artist can be understood by looking at his cultural diversity and the merging of the artistic influences of both Algeria and Italy where he now lives. He has refined his cultural and artistic knowledge through his travels and periods of study across Europe. His numerous personal and group exhibitions, in Italy, Norway, Canada, the United States and UK have received positive and enthusiastic reactions from both the public and critics alike.

His paintings are to be found in the National Museum of Fine Arts of Algeria and in numerous private collections in Canada, the United States, Japan, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Austria and Italy.