Mouhammad Mouselli: Let Time Drift Away

Curated by Louisa Elderton

Let your eye settle on the space between pigment and paper. Let time drift away. Let your gaze be guided from one shape to another, feel yourself grapple as you try to place it. Landscape, figuration and abstraction; drawing and painting. Somehow you see everything at once, their separation irrelevant: one and the same.

Syrian artist Mouhammad Mouselli (b. 1989) uses a combination of ink, pastel, charcoal, watercolour, pencil and acrylic paint on paper to create strange, enigmatic compositions of amorphous shapes and watery washes of colour. In one, the cosmos itself is recalled; a planet of turquoise blue mottled with apple green emitting a rivulet of florescent pink that bleeds into space. Pale, almost translucent lines of yellow and pink form concentric circles, above which a satellite floats and an apricot pink atmosphere contains an ominously dark planet.

In another, a globular mass is outlined with dense blackness and internally marked by lines that recall Egyptian hieroglyphics; from another perspective, you might see a child resting within the womb. And what about the faceless figure that is running: from what exactly? One hand holds a phone etched with cobalt blue, the other shaded with shamrock green and holding a nebulous sack. Or perhaps these are purely abstract compositions that the eye frantically tries to pin down, to make sense of?

Mouselli uses his practice as a means to detach from time and it’s linear path. This is reflected in works that wrap themselves up in loops of changing perception. As the eye darts over each shape and colour, again and again, we see the forms anew – this time a green circle, next time a watery puddle, and then a cog in a complex, interconnected machine.

His colours are often subtle and seductive, with occasional bright neon flashes of electric yellow and scarlet red, cut through with bubble-gum pink. Lilac pencil marks punctuate a swirling blue biosphere; metallic gold meanders into papal purple; the palest of pinks is interrupted by thick black lines of charcoal, lightened once more with an inverted shadow of pure white. In his drawings of pure charcoal, the material has been densely applied to create a heavy, smoky effect and then contrasted with the grainy, sparse swipe that results from using the charcoal stick on its edge; the symbols in these works resultantly drift in and out of focus, like clouds forming trippy shapes and then dispersing.

The artist’s influences range from visual art to music, poetry and philosophy; the shapes of Spanish Modernist Joan Miró and the Arabic poetry of Salim Barakat and Riad al-Saleh al-Hussein, as well as the experimental compositions of John Cage. Of his own practice, the artist says: “I’m trying to think about nothing. You destroy time … you don’t know why, you’re just trying to compose, figure out, catch something, trying to let it go. It’s life, it’s living.”