Sudanese artist brings lifelong experience to Manama

Diab’s artistic inspiration comes from women, the Nile and the desert.
Sunday 12/01/2020
A painting by Sudanese artist Rashid Diab. (Al Arab)
A fascination with colours. A painting by Sudanese artist Rashid Diab. (Al Arab)

MANAMA - A retrospective exhibition, called “Beyond the Silence,” of the work of Rashid Diab showcases works from various stages of the life of the Sudanese artist through paintings, carvings, sculptures and drawings.

The exhibition, sponsored by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, is to run at the Bahrain Museum in Manama through February 15.

It was in the Sudanese city of Wad Madani, within the generosity of its African beauty and the charm of its popular myths, that Diab developed his talent. Its variety of artistic activities and the work of popular artists in depicting the daily life of its inhabitants shaped Diab and his artistic talent. His work is steeped in an awareness of his homeland’s cultural heritage.

Diab said his inspiration came from the silence of vast desert expanses, the colourful banks of the Nile River and the suffering of Sudanese women. Those factors intertwined with his Western diaspora experience in Spain.

Diab carries the obsession of the plastic artist and his questionings are expressed in colours, shapes and shades of light. Those aspects carry the secrets of his identity and artistic experience. His work is realistic as much as it is abstract but it is, above all, emotional and smooth flowing, just like the flow of the Nile.

As a child, Diab played with clay, shaping it in a variety of ways. He moved to drawing on paper and cloth until he discovered the magic of colours and their strength, which opened new doors for his creativity.

Diab loved Sudan and its silent desert environment, so he travelled all over the country to experience the beauty of its colours and landscapes. He moved to Spain to enrich his creative experiences before returning to his homeland to carry out his aesthetic and artistic message.

Diab’s artistic inspiration comes from women, the Nile and the desert. He found inspiration in the outer curves, ripples and colours of Sudanese women. By depicting them in a variety of contexts, he sought to recapture the emotions of being with his mother.

“In every woman, I hear my mother’s voice when I was a child telling me that I was an artist,” he said.

He said he admires the endless flowing generosity of the Nile and the deep silence and beauty of the desert.

“Rashid Diab is a Sudanese artist with great talent in colouring, drawing and printing. He has had extensive academic artistic education inside and outside Sudan and is also known as an intellectual who is deeply aware of the culture of Sudan and its people,” said artist Ibrahim al-Salhi.

“He is very helpful to creative Sudanese artists of all ages, hoping to revive artistic life in Khartoum following years of neglect. He is one of those who execute what they decide upon because he is a dynamic artist and a free thinker. With his abilities, insightful vision and perseverance, he believes he can bring back awareness to a country that has been in deep hibernation for a long time.”

Diab’s formative experience can be divided into three distinct artistic stages that shaped his world and artistic interests and inquiries.

During his beginnings as an artist (1983-86), Diab immersed himself in the shapes and patterns of Arabic calligraphy, drawing verses of the Quran on the upper side of his paintings. His distinct calligraphic style carries the stamp of the teachings of Quranic schools in Sudan. The influence of known Sudanese artists in this domain is quite visible in Diab’s work.

During the second stage of his artistic career (1986-90), Diab was influenced by works common in the Renaissance, especially oil paintings. He mastered the technique of flooding canvas space with gradient colours and images.

In large spaces, he favoured playing with light and shade while retaining the completed shapes and colours from the previous stage. This stage was marked by a high degree of maturity, refined style and sensitivity in his works, especially in his collection “Memories of the Migratory Bird” (1989), in which he revisited his childhood dreams and souvenirs.

Diab called the third stage of his career (1990-93) “The passion for colour period.”

“Sometimes my relationship with techniques, styles and tools becomes a source of overwhelming feelings of anxiety and sometimes of contentment,” he said. “I work with the idea of ​​constantly experimenting with techniques and exploring my capacities to express myself freely.

“I’m fascinated by colours because they constitute the most important aspect in my creative process. I do not share the Western view that an artist’s success is in his commitment to one technique or style that will characterise his work throughout his life. I consider myself in a constant state of research and transformation. I produce what I like at a given moment and in the style that I like. For me, art is a human condition.”

The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities issued a book about “Beyond the Silence” documenting Diab’s career and highlighting his role in the cultural and social development of Sudanese society. It includes numerous illustrations of his works, representing the various periods of his artistic development.