During his time as a political prisoner in his native Sudan in the 1970s, Ibrahim El-Salahi drew on small scraps of cement casings, which he would join together to make a whole when his guards were not watching. Now 91 years old and suffering from back pain and sciatica, the ‘Godfather of African Modernism’ refuses to let pain restrict him, creating almost 200 tiny pen-and-ink drawings on medicine packets during 2016-18, from an armchair.
‘It reminds me of the time when I found paper in prison, and did sort of little images as the nucleus. So I pray and bring peace and calm in my mind that I use as imagery, which can be transmitted to other people when they see my work.’
Pain Relief features large, unique monoprint paintings transferred by screen from these small initial works.
‘A small drawing is an artwork by itself, but at the same time when it is enlarged it works very well indeed. It has a great potential of moving from a small size to a large size – the organic growth of a picture, the work is alive. That is the nucleus. The idea of the nucleus, like the seed, if you have water and enough sunlight it can grow into a larger size. It’s the origin, that’s the main thing.’
In this, our tenth anniversary year, we are thrilled to welcome this Ibrahim El-Salahi back to the gallery. His one-room 2015 exhibition focused on the Haraza tree which grows on the banks of the Nile. Pain Relief coincides with El-Salahi’s inclusion in Il Latte dei Sogni (The Milk of Dreams) at the Venice Biennale.
Download the Pain Relief press release here