Kamal Boullata Presents Bilqis
Transparency and spatial ambiguity are the subjects of a series of large paintings whose title Bilqis is borrowed from the Arabic name of the queen of Sheba. According to the Qur’anic legend, upon entering the court of King Solomon, Bilqis mistaking its glass floor for a sheet of water lifted up her skirt to avoid getting it wet. Over the centuries, glass floors, fountains and ceramic walls alluding to glistening surfaces touched by water were combined to become the aesthetic hallmark of all palatial buildings in the Islamic world. In the process, symmetries and spatial ambiguity in visual perception was to foster the evolution of geometric abstraction in Islamic art.
The series composed of 15 geometrically abstract acrylic paintings on canvas, was conceived to be displayed in the form of 5 triptychs. In each triptych, vertical and diagonal lines intersect at variable angles to create a horizontal composition. The rhythmic sequence of forms is set in accordance with a geometric formula of proportions originally evolved in tenth century Baghdad. The transparent layers of free-flowing brushstrokes are sharply delineated by the precision of hard-edged painting. The contrasting combination recalls the words of Novalis, ‘Chaos in a work of art should shimmer through the veil of order.’ The issuing contrast of overlapping forms stirs a sense of movement punctuated by intermittent flashes of light. Contrary to a perspectival illusion of space, foreground and background become interchangeable. Seeming symmetries and refractions are perceived through the interweaving of polygons and triangles whose correspondence recalls ambiguities intrinsic to geometric arabesques.