Kamal Boullata – And There Was Light


This autumn the Berloni gallery presents the first London exhibition of Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata’s work since 1978.  The acclaimed artist who is known both for his geometric abstract paintings, and for his intricate explorations of Palestinian identity and exile, will show around twenty new paintings on both canvas and paper for his return to London.


Born in Jerusalem in 1942, after graduating from the Academia di Belle Arti in Rome (1961-65) and later the Corcoran Art Museum School in Washington DC (1968-71), Boullata continued to travel, living in the USA, Morocco and France. These journeys play a crucial role in his work; exhibitions of his paintings have been shown all over the world.

Now based in Germany, having been elected a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Boullata continues to produce work that challenges the conventions of his Palestinian heritage. With a history that includes researching post-Byzantine painting in Palestine, winning a Ford Foundation grant in 2001, and editing a number of books on modern Palestinian poetry and contemporary culture, it’s unsurprising that Boullata’s practice has been praised for its convoluted nature, with simple surfaces giving way to complex and unsettling truths.

Art Historian Gérard Xuriguera describes Boullata’s work as transformational:

Woven by translucent panes, by the vibrations of redoubling forms and sliding shapes that filter in through the heart of a sharply defined perimeter, this work exudes a spatial dimension of light; its chords discretely swell to animate variations of a rare harmony.

It is in the strange knotting, the ‘stabilizing geometry’ that Boullata establishes between transparencies and ‘the shimmering that crystallizes every now and then’ that Xuriguera identifies ‘a subtle dialectic… not the reflection of a coincidence but the product of a vigilant discipline’. This discipline is evident throughout Boullata’s work; the stark contrasts and architectural lines map out a conversation between materials and their interaction with light. With his signature abstract style these most recent paintings seem to bring the artist to an exciting new sparseness, a clear and controlled look at the relation between shapes and colours. More bluntly, we see Boullata explore the relationship between light and dark, a binary that provokes those central concerns of identity and exile that remain so fundamental to the Palestinian people.



For more information visit the Berloni gallery website here.


By Thea Hawlin