eL Seed is an artist that captures the beauty of contradictions. Working with graffiti and street art in non-traditional ways, while infusing his work with elements of traditional Islamic calligraphy, he’s developed his own distinctive brand of Calligraffiti. His work is not only aesthetically breathtaking, but it often comes with humble messages, grace, power, identity explorations and gentle political commentary.
In his recent exhibition, On the Road to Damascus, which was a part of a collaborative show at Montreal’s Fresh Paint Gallery eL Seed used his Calligraffiti to explore the duality of struggle in the Arab world: “My latest exhibition series is inspired from the recent events that have taken place in my home country Tunisia, and also in the Arab World. ‘On the road to Damascus’ has a double meaning in this case: partly noting the unique moment in history we are all witnessing, and partly paying tribute to the struggle of the Syrian population.”
eL Seed is currently in high demand. His travel and work schedule are full as museums, communities and intellectuals are taking notice of him on an international level.
To name just a few of his recent endeavors: He participated as a speaker and an artist at Pop Tech 2011. He was invited to LA to make ‘This is just a phrase in Arabic” (see video here), and to Doha, Qatar to conduct Calligraffiti workshops with students in partnership with the Museum of Islamic Art. Here he has shared with us a reflection of his time in Doha along with a beautifully shot video produced on that trip (see below).
Currently, eL Seed has continued to create work within the perplexing theme of revolution, Arab identity and uprising in the Middle East. In his upcoming participation in the anticipated Arab Winter project, opening at the Fresh Paint Gallery on December 2nd, Arab Winter deals with the innate struggle of revolution in Arab countries and the questions that arise during and after a swell of a revolutionary movement.
Nothing like it has been attempted so far and it is sure to be an experiential exhibit that will tackle hard questions and “contemplate issues of the past and establish the questions we need to ask ourselves about the future. What is it like the day after the revolution? When the dust settles, who will help us clean up?” (see the Arab Winter tumblr here) In collaboration with other prominent Montreal based Arab artists this exhibit is already generating a lot of buzz. Each artist is being featured in a short video, here is the one of eL Seed talking about the project. To learn more about the collaborative exhibit to and support Arab Winter please visit their Indigogo site where they are raising the remainder of the funds needed to launch this exhibit.
Reflections from Doha, by eL Seed
When I was first contacted by the Museum of Islamic Art, I was surprised that such an institution would be interested in graffiti, and at the same time, honoured that my work had caught their attention. During one week I conducted a series of workshops with students from neighbouring schools. The purpose of each workshop was to introduce Calligraffiti to youth who either have or have no previous experience with the art process. They learnt various spray paint techniques, graffiti designs and lettering. The desired outcome of these workshops was to instill feelings of artistic agency and pride in realizing large-scale masterpieces in a group environment. As the week came to a close, I felt that the Museum was striving to both carry the traditions of Islamic Art and keep a vision oriented toward the future. The success of this amazing experience would not have been possible without the dedication of several Museum employees: I would like to personally thank Amel Saadi-Cherif and Deena Hammam, the team of the MIA, and all the participants.