Abdelgader Badr, a Libyan artist with a sense of ‘power of things’

Badr draws ideas for his paintings from his interest in ancient Islamic architecture in North Africa and the Maghreb.
Sunday 17/11/2019
A painting by Libyan artist Abdelgader Badr. (Courtesy of Abdelgader Badr)
Interconnected details and forms. A painting by Libyan artist Abdelgader Badr. (Courtesy of Abdelgader Badr)

TRIPOLI - Libyan artist Abdelgader Badr said he draws ideas for his paintings from his interest in ancient architecture in Libya, North Africa and the Maghreb. He is fascinated with Islamic architecture and its many distinctive decorations, perfectly illustrating the unique creative and aesthetic values ​​inherent to the visual and architectural Islamic heritage in those regions, as shown by the many castles, buildings, mosques, arches and doors.

The beauty of the architecture melts into the natural beauty of the Mediterranean region and its bright colours. All these features are reflected in Badr’s abstract and cubist paintings that he completed in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.

Badr’s paintings are replete with symbolic connotations found in the intricately interconnected details and forms of the composition and its artistic effect, giving viewers room to project their own feelings and interpretations. His paintings are filled with people intermingled with fish, boats, the sea and clouds.

Badr said he believes “the artist has a sense of the power of things and of what he wants to express. The strength of a work of art resides in its elements and their connections with symbols and connotations.”

“It needs to be complete and powerful for the recipient to be impressed by it and accept it,” he said. “The work’s attractiveness is what draws the viewer to it and this depends on the artist’s experience and the mastery of his tools and techniques and on successfully using symbolic references which are going to make viewers stop and take the time to meditate on the painting. These are the keys to artistic expression.”

“Generally, my abstract work or my artistic experiences are not attempt to escape reality but are a reality,” Badr added. “These media are the artist’s raw materials and the language he uses to address his audience.”

Badr said abstract art is the result of a deep and fundamental understanding of reality in all its components and symbols and that understanding is reformulated in a way that touches the soul and the heart.

For Badr, art is what connects reflection and creativity to understand the mysteries of the universe and of life.

“Art is a kind of sense of the power of things that exist among the details of our relationship with others. It is intimately linked to life, each side enriching and influencing the other,” he said.

“Plastic art, including calligraphy, drawing and painting, is a means to document cultural heritage and becomes part of the cultural heritage. It is also one of the methods for preserving cultural identity, documenting and caring for heritage and adding to it rather than imitating it; it is not possible to preserve old heritage without renewing it.”

Badr has exhibited collage-like paintings closely resembling mosaics. “When I took up collage, it was a significant stage and tool that helped me develop my abstract work,” he said. “It was an experience that inspired many of the folkloric elements and symbols in my work. I basically reformulate the basic concepts behind them and highlight the aesthetics and colours of these forms and make them essential elements in the artwork.”

Badr pointed out that location has a special influence on the topics of his paintings. Architectural features of buildings and the effects of time on walls, the shapes and colours of doors, narrow streets and old neighbourhoods where his parents and grandparents lived and the events they went through and their lifestyle, all occupy a great space in his work.

“In my sea works, the fishing boats, ports and the tales and legends of the local fishermen constitute the background for my art and that illustrates my total immersion in the details of the place I’m depicting,” he said.

Badr’s abstract paintings involve intersecting objects and colour effects that give the viewer a wide array of choices in interpretation.

“The recipient plays a big role in the process of pondering the artwork and accepting or rejecting it. When the work contains enough expression and artistic elements such as colours, forms and symbols close to the recipient’s reality, it will be easy for the recipient to appreciate the idea behind it. The recipient is an integral part of the artwork,” he said.

Badr pointed out that he was trying, through simple and uncomplicated abstract works, to bring abstract art closer to the general public and help their understanding of it. He said his aim is to bridge the distance between the audience and plastic creativity.

“The sincerity of the work of art and the idea being expressed have a tremendous role in influencing the recipient and in his acceptance of the work of art,” he said. “That is the true mirror that reflects the success of the artist and of his artwork.

“For his part, the artist is responsible for raising artistic awareness among the general public, developing artistic taste and creating communication channels with audiences to facilitate understanding of the artwork. If an artist cannot touch people’s feelings and sensitivities, he can never be one.”

What is noticeable in Badr’s work is the near total absence of man but not of man’s feelings, joys, sorrows and anxieties. This is evidence of the freedom abstract art affords the artist.

Badr’s treatment of his subjects is never random or absurd. Every line, form and colour is carefully laid out and played out.

“Abstraction gives me the freedom to express myself and depart from the ordinary, as well as the ability to translate mental thoughts, emotions and feelings into artistic forms,” he said.

Badr said he disagrees with the argument that abstraction may trap the artist into repeating himself. He said a true artist can create a kind of diversity from one painting to another.

“My paintings are endless tales and novels that are often linked to each other and I don’t think I’m repeating myself,” he explained. “I still have plenty of ideas and themes that I’m hoping to express and the diversity of my work illustrates this trend. This is because of my many hobbies and my great interest in marine sports. I love the sea and sailing, in particular.

“I also have a visual memory that allows me to recall my experiences and the places I’ve been to and that helps me a lot to find themes for my work.”