After the previous success of their past exhibitions inspired by poet, artist, and writer, Kahlil Gibran and his best selling book, The Prophet, we had the pleasure of visiting their recent exhibition at Sotheby’s in New Bond Street.
The exhibition, which also celebrates the 95th publishing anniversary of ‘The Prophet’ this year, attracted a considerable number of guests and we had a rather pleasant evening viewing an array of art pieces and socialising with other art enthusiasts. We have heard of Kahlil Gibran and some of his work but, have never ‘discovered’ him fully which after attending the exhibition, find we are cheating ourselves from finding a poet whose spirit is immortalised and continuing to inspire many other artists.
Kahlil Gibran a Lebanese- American artist, poet and writer who, immigrated to the US with his family in the late 1800’s, began his journey into the beauty of Literature. He took inspiration from renowned artists such as; William Blake (showing his ties to Romanticism), William Turner as well as, Islamic and Catholic Art (Gibran took an avid interest into Sufism). He studied art for two years in Paris and then journeyed to London to work on other ambitious projects. His work is distinguished and highly regarded in both the Middle East and West. Gibran’s peaceful outlook and belief of a united people and religions is reflected in his work and demonstrated in his book ‘The Prophet’, written in 1923.
The exhibition, co-curated by Janet Rady and Marion Fromley Baecker and in partnership with the Arab British centre, seeks to emphasize Gibran’s work of harmony and peace and essentially develop the links between the Middle East and the West. Throughout their exhibitions it is these words peace and harmony, that are constantly at the center stage. It is Caravan’s objective to develop and nourish the progression of a world with united people and celebrate their religions, cultures or beliefs. As the evening progressed, drinks and nourishments were provided and people socialised and diligently observed the various art pieces. It was soon followed by a talk by Caravan’s founder, Paul- Gordon Chandler, and also a performance of traditional music. Unfortunately we were unable to hear some of Mr Chandler’s speech, due to the excited talk amongst the other guests, but his profound passion and interest was evident when speaking about Kahlil Gibran’s work. To learn more about the CEO, author, curator, social entrepreneur and other distinctions and work he has done please visit here; https://www.paulgordonchandler.com/ .
We were able to speak to two artists on the exhibition day and learnt more about their pieces and how Gibran inspired their work.
The picture to the far left was brilliantly painted by the artist, Nevine Fathy. The portrait of Kahlil Gibran, which was originally in black and white, took Nevine one month to complete. She said she was struck by the “strength of his gaze and persona” that was emitted in the photograph, and which she has stunningly conveyed in her magnetic painting. Although presenting a challenge, Nevine used ‘a combination of [her] imagination and research’. Ultimately, this allowed her to experiment and also give the ‘skin tones a spark of life and illusion of animation’. Amongst Gibran is a collection of scripts detailing quotes from ‘The Prophet’ alongside Nevine’s chosen favourites, as she conveys Gibran’s wealth of knowledge and shares his passion for a peaceful humanity. To find more works done by Nevine, head over to her website; http://www.nevinefathy.com/.
For Somaya Abdulghani, a Bahrani artist, the book she said, “took over his [Gibran’s] life, and had bountifuls of knowledge and wisdom” and she was attentive to the words of Gibran, which facilitated the development of her piece. She used the research she had on the verses of The Holy Quran, specifically the first five verses, that highlighted the importance ‘for mankind to learn, and urges the use of all available ways for the transfer of knowledge and the documentation of what can survive and spread’. Upon asking her on the symbolism behind her piece she stated, “the butterflies represent the movement, the constant work, an evolving state” and essentially, a metamorphosis. Whereas the threads she described as being, “the threads of knowledge, and the tools to help us learn, depending on how we use them”. I enjoyed the use of the butterflies, acting as the extended metaphor, and found this piece to represent not only knowledge but also peace.
In total, Caravan have held four peace-building exhibitions in London;
In Peace and with Compassion, was held in 2013 and centered around life sized, fiberglass donkey pieces which were adorned in decoration and paint. The donkey, which is noted to be a symbol of peace in some religious faiths, were exhibited in Cairo and then travelled to London to be shown in St. Paul’s Cathedral. This exhibit was followed by a charity auction and proceeds going to the poor in Egypt. https://www.oncaravan.org/peace
The Bridge, which ran from 2015-2016 toured around various well-known venues in Europe, Cairo and throughout the United States. The self explanatory title ‘The Bridge’, focused on the links that ties us together and our common groundings. This was reinforced by the 47 contemporary artists who were sourced from 15 countries with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish backgrounds. Forty percent of the proceeds were donated to underprivileged kids under the program, ‘Educate Me’. https://www.oncaravan.org/the-bridge
The Key, is centered around the ‘key of life’ or otherwise known as the ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh. The Ankh which was made into a modern three-dimensional fiberglass, opened in Cairo and then presented in London, England, New York City and USA. The Ankh acted as the extended metaphor for peace and harmony and to unite people. https://www.oncaravan.org/the-key
I AM, the short but powerful title of this exhibit, focuses on the accomplishments of Middle Eastern women and their role towards developing a peaceful world. The exhibit which began in Amman, Jordan, is under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and features 31 Middle Eastern women artists of different faiths, from 12 countries. The exhibit which began in Amman, is currently touring throughout the USA through to the end of 2018. To learn more about the exhibit and upcoming dates, please check the link; https://www.oncaravan.org/i-am-exhibition
The exhibit was a delight to attend, and we are glad to have been introduced to the works of Caravan and the peaceful message that they convey. It is clear from the success of the exhibitions that there is a growing need for a united outlook among people and positive, harmonious relationships to be established. To find out more about Caravan visit their page; http://www.oncaravan.org.