النتيكا The rustling of the stone

  • VENUE: Elmarsa Gallery, #23 Alserkal Avenue
  • START: 10:00 AM
  • END: 07:00 PM
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Elmarsa Gallery is pleased to present النتيكا  The rustling of the stone, Atef Maatallah’s first solo exhibition in Dubai, opening on Monday 18 Novembre 2019. The exhibition presents some fifteen drawings and mosaics mapping the inner land of the artist’s childhood in "antika", the ruins of the Tunisian archaeological site Thuburbo Majus transformed into a playground to flee the daily dreary burden from his native town of El Fahs. «النتيكا  The rustling of the stone» extends the artist's interest in history related to our relationship to time and dichotomies between individual memory and collective memory, human reality and historical reality.

“Native of El Fahs, Atef Maatallah is a graduate of the Higher Institute of Fine Arts of Tunis (2005) where he studied sculpture. Since the end of 2017, he had occupied the basements adjoining Elmarsa gallery, which can be accessed from Abdelhafidh El Mekki Street. Over the months, the artist's daily life has become a ritual: for days, he leaves the ground of the street’s trivialities to sink into an underground and will only come back up tired of the labor. From the surface from which we write, this chthonian path, which has become a chorus, preludes what the artist is undertaking from below the world. Let us remember the root bonds between man (homo) and the earth (humus¹), let us remember the primitive strain they would share, of this first man made of materia prima, clay. Then, of these remembrances, we would almost see the artist, by sinking underground, inhuming himself (in-humus) and, as a result, inhuming his self (in-homo), through an entry into oneself. There, in himself where he faces his inner self, he works. But then, on what?”

“When the words were silent, the studio was filled with the rustle of the stones. Not only the figurative stones, the ruined stones, but their resonance in the practice of drawing: the graphite pencil leads. They are also stones whose erosion tells a story. The rubbing of the pencil lead on the paper seemed to be the scansions of a long poem, punctuated by stops: the choice of another lead, sometimes fatter, loaded with graphite, sometimes drier, loaded with clay. And each pencil, each lead refill and each level of erosion of the tip points made a singular noise. On the surface of the paper, graphite stones and their wear and tear echoed faithfully the ancient stones and their defeats on the surface of history. Even more than seeing the drawings being made, entering the artist's graphic monuments also involved listening to the eroding graphite ores.”

“At first sight, the first graphic fields, which we witnessed being created during our visits, state the interference of two different times: on the one hand, the time of History - already established by its capital initial -, borrowing its slowness and powers from the resistance of the stone, from the persistence of ruin; a time that then intended to be timeless, erecting its temples and carving its monuments towards an eternity by which its men would attain immortality. On the other hand, it is also the time of history - announced, this one, by its anecdotic lowercase -, being part of the transitional and fleeting course of a daily life, of the banal flight of a plastic bag, of the ballet of drying clothes. The time of a mezoued (Tunisian bagpipe) melody that spreads its complaints to the four winds, of the vulgarity of a garbage lying on the ground. Despite their apparent distance, these two times coexist together and in the same time: that of the work; two times whose strange encounter establishes the poetic power of these visions.”

Mohamed-Ali Berhouma

Excerpts from the exhibition catalogue essay: “Archaeographing the interior lands - Some incursions into Atef Maatallah’s drawings” by Mohamed-Ali Berhouma (April 2018-May 2019)