Memory Drum

  • VENUE: Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Unit 21

Memory Drum is the second solo exhibition of Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim (b.1962) at the gallery, comprising a series of new paintings and sculptures, produced during his time in isolation in his Khorfakkan studio during the 2020 lockdown, which forced him to go deeper into his innate knowledge - his “drum memory”.

Featured are new series of paintings, Flowers and Boulevards. Both are rooted in Ibrahim’s previous semi-figural paintings of symbols. More plant-like than figure-like, both represent growth and are interconnected, yet on different scales. The same forms become either flowers or towering trees, depending upon context: the Flowers paintings are growing from schematic pots, whilst the Boulevards paintings recall aerial maps of cities or landscapes, with large trees lining roads or rivers. Conversely, they may also be read as zoomed-in slides of organic matter viewed under a microscope. 

Memory Drum also presents recent three-dimensional works in papier-maché – some rich in colour, others in nuanced natural and neutral tones, derived from leaves, grass, tea, coffee or tobacco mixed into his materials. Some of the free-standing sculptures evoke humanoid figures, whereas the smaller wall-based sculptures have the feel of children’s toys – either rattles or those that hang over babies’ cribs.

For Ibrahim, Memory Drum relates to the idea of innate knowledge in early childhood. This innate knowledge for the artist is more important than that learnt later on throughout the course of life. Most people lose touch with it through learned behaviours, but Ibrahim is constantly aware of it, especially so during this time of enforced isolation.

The exhibition reveals a change in emphasis toward semi-figural, both in painting and in sculpture, which is a clear development in Ibrahim’s practice, balanced as it is by tendencies that remain: the repetition of mark-making and forms in the paintings; the automatic almost subconscious object-making of the sculptures, analogous to organic growth; the disregard of scale, and the vibrancy of colour and texture that suffuse both.