‘Adam’ is an honorific commemoration of the First Man, and the letter aleph, the singular sources of the powers of creation and communication respectively.
Safarkhan has the pleasure of unveiling the fifth consecutive exhibition from one of Egypt’s youngest and brightest contemporary talents, Ibrahim Khatab. ‘Adam’ is an honorific commemoration of the First Man, and the letter aleph, the singular sources of the powers of creation and communication respectively. Inspired by the great wisdom of ancient Farsi poetry, Khatab’s latest collection captures the purity, love and source of light that is represented in the universal figure of Adam, God’s first creation that spawned mankind. Khatab’s works explore the notion of Adam as the aleph, and aleph is Allah, they are inextricable from one another and divinely intertwined - as both are progenitors - the former of genesis, and the latter of the gift of communication, in speaking and script. The first of creation is represented by the first letter of the alphabet and is his namesake, this remarkable fact remains curiously true not only in Arabic and English, but the lingua francas of antiquity in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and indeed most of the world’s diverse existing modern tongues, by no coincidence.
In the artist’s own words, ‘Adam’ is partly inspired by the lyrical wisdom of famed 13th century Iranian poet Hafez Saadi Shirazi, who wrote; “On the heart’s tablet, there is nothing but preceding the letter aleph. O’ what must I do? And my teacher taught me no other letter.” The significance of this is best understood in the fact that the aleph is the only letter in the Arabic script that cannot be conjoined to another letter following it. It purposely retains this divine singularity, to stand and serve as an eternal symbol of the transcendental glory of God. This is attested to in the Sufi tradition of Shirazi’s, those of the free spirit, who have attained the status of witnesses to His divine power and creation. The curvature of the lower part of the letter indicates the path of all manifestations of cosmic existence from the very highest to the most lowly. The letter aleph also represents the number one, symbolizing the immutable oneness of the Almighty Lord, and this value unique to the most important of all letters. The aleph when bent, becomes a dal, then a ra with another, and with both ends bent, a beh, with its two ends twisted upward, a nun, and in the same manner, the aleph, like God’s first creation, which it represents phonetically and scripturally, is the progenitor of all the letters of the alphabet.
The works forming the collection ‘Adam’ feature the artist’s pensive and sensitive amalgamation of ornate Arabic calligraphy, with ancient cultural motifs and symbols drawn from the Pharaonic, Babylonian and Farsi civilizations. In combining them together using his trademark technique of layering old newspapers and posters which are then chemically treated and painted upon, Khatab ruminates on the inherent meaning of these diverse pictorial and scriptural elements in synergetic harmony with one another. Such elements include fruits with spiritual connotations and legendary powers of healing, to mysterious cryptic script seemingly moving with a melody of its own dramatic contours and elongated form, to the timeless relationship between man and beast, represented in anthropomorphic mythical creatures resembling the Lamassu and Sphinx. In bringing them into contact and communication with one another, Khatab animates his canvases with a distinctly ethereal sensation which he has built his ever-growing reputation on, echoing the transcendental roots of our divine forefathers from Adam, and the aleph, onward.