SCATTERED, GATHERED - ISSAM KOURBAJ & NIZAR SABOUR
January 8, 2014
The exhibition “Scattered, Gathered” strikes viewers with a sense of being suspended between pages of affectivity. While the relationship with books is both a public and private one, similarly, the relationship with grief is one that is at the verge of expressing to the outside and keeping to one’s self. On the one hand, Issam Kourbaj’s visual diaries are superimposed on 10,232 pages of Twelve Volumes of The Encyclopedia Britannica of 1890, and on the other hand, Nizar Sabour’s visual essays are created on eighteen handmade wooden books ” The Book: Guardian, of Death and Life”. Still, both diaries reside between the tensions of the imaginary; those of space and time.
Proceeds from this exhibition will go towards Al Madad Foundation’s education and literacy programs, on the ground in Aleppo Syria. By equipping Syria’s most vulnerable children and families with the right tools and necessary skills, Al Madad Foundation enables them to rebuild their lives, country and empower a future generation that will not be lost to war.
Issam comes from a background of fine art, architecture and theatre design. He was born in Syria and trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts & Architecture in Leningrad (St Petersburg) and at Wimbledon School of Art (London). Since 1990, he has lived and worked in Cambridge, eventually becoming an Artist in Residence at Christ’s College and a Bye-Fellow (2007-2011), where he is now the Lector in Art.
In 2009, as part of Cambridge University’s celebration of its 800th anniversary, Issam was invited to design the sets for the play Let Newton Be! and for a contemporary dance piece Light Matters, which was presented in the University Senate House. His Cambridge Palimpsest, a puzzle box linking time and archaeology, was also published by Cambridge University Press as part of the celebrations and was presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their first official visit to Cambridge.
He is interested in collaborating with other creative science and humanity disciplines and has produced work using different forms of Camerae obscurae, inspired by Ibn Al-Haytham’s work on optics.
His work has been widely exhibited and collected and in 2008, a collection of his sketches Sound Palimpsest (some inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh and others by language, war and memory) was acquired by the British Museum and exhibited in their Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present exhibition, run in parallel with their major 2008-2009 exhibition Babylon: Myth and Reality. The Museum also featured Issam’s work in their 2011 exhibition: Modern Syrian Art at the British Museum (part of the 1st Shubbak Festival: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture).
Since then his work has related to the Syrian Crisis and reflects on the destruction of his cultural heritage.
Born in Lattakia, Syria 1958
Graduate from Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Painting and Drawing, Damascus, Syria 1981
Doctorate of Philosophy in Sciences of Art, Moscow, Russia 1990
Teaching Commission Member in the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus University
Professor at the International Private University for Science & Technology, Ghabagheb, Syria