1. Abu Jafar by Phill King

At an opening in Hackney Pascal. introduces me to Jafar and we fall into an involved conversation about finding studio space. Pascal has managed somehow to get himself a free space in a soon to be demolished Council Block and I'm celebrating the low rent on the small garage which I'm using as a studio. Jafar is intending to move down from the North of England and is looking for space so I go through the various lame suggestions about where and how he might go about finding one. He says that he's going to look at one the next day and asks if I'll come along and see what I think. It turns out that it is out in Woolwich by the London Airport somewhere I've not been so intrigued, I agree to meet him the next day.. as he's leaving he casually tells me that it is 6000 sq ft. in size. Modernity shifts its basis continuously; it is a kind of perpetual change. When conditions don't shift quickly enough the results can be a kind of war. 
Logistics are the basis of modernity, moving things from one place to the next. Speed, violence, transformation are the qualities of a shattering machinery which undermines its own ground. We can only stand and stare at the scale of these operations. Where can a public art find its site in a world where sites are swept away continuously? Meeting at Tower Hill we head out east on the Docklands Light Railway. Jafar is enthusiastic about the opportunities the ongoing development of the old London docks offers artists. I'm beginning to get a notion of the scale of his ambition. It's a beautiful sunny day as the driverless toy like train trips happily through the grinding jumbled environment whose size always amazes me. Pascal was telling me this morning about Jafar's vast studio in Lancashire. I'm impressed. Somehow Abu's driving desire begins to animate my perception of what I once saw as a kind of broken down difficult and somewhat inhospitable desert. He seems to understand things effortlessly on a level flush with a developing modernity. This attitude seems able to invent a paradoxically refreshing authenticity in the heat of self-conscious post-modernism. Glass turns to ice in the unexpected glint of a modernist dream.

Metal and glass are the materials whose combination defines a particularly corporate architecture. In Brick Lane office buildings are beginning to cut into the dark crumbling Georgian surroundings. Right across the East End such gleaming blades slice through the breaking down, broken down fabric of houses, commercial building and crammed in Council blocks. The muddled expanse of the area becomes the tabula rasa of planner's drawing boards. Imagination falters and is wrenched apart before this scattered and scattering vista. He tells me of how, when he was at school he used to be paid by other students to do detailed drawings for their science assignments. This develops into a general conversation about drawing. He says "drawing, drawing, drawing. I always drew. Once I drew a Heron, like this". He quickly draws a bird for me on a scrap of paper. "My father saw me doing this flying Heron and told me 'Jafar you know you are not allowed to do that'. It was breaking the Muslim prohibition on figurative pictures. I come from a small village, Jhilna in Patuakhali district of Bangladesh. Since my father told me to stop drawing I would draw only at night. I couldn't get art materials; it is a very rural environment.... Later my uncle (Abdur Rab) who encouraged me and my mother did too... I just drew all the time when ever I could". This story feels familiar to me in as much as my own drawing was always a bit compulsive in class I doodled continuously, illicitly filling my exercise books with elaborate designs. Jafar smiles and tells me how he used to draw on the blackboard when the teacher was out of the room.

" There was a Hindu house near my school with a statue of the Goddess Durga... the one with ten hands. I was very fascinated, one day skipping prayers time & I stay at the class room to drew her on the blackboard. When I finished the drawing I felt so happy and for got to erase the picture from the blackboard, time was running out the class teacher and my class mates came back to the class, I was sitting on my place and class began for the session then every one looking at the board and my teacher face went red, and asked who drew this. I was afraid, so I kept quiet. Then he said that it is really a good picture, if any one done from this classroom he would give him a special prize. I put my hand up then he call me to come forward near to the blackboard and beat me up for the drawing. But it was not the end of my drawing. Of course then I drew even more, I copied cinema billboards on the blackboards, I had a captive audience of pupils.. this was when I started to get paid to do their science drawings.. I used to get good money!"
Abstraction is a way out of the interdiction on representational figures of animals and humans in Muslim art. Pattern arabesque, rhythm and formal design become a kind of information that energises a nature of non-representational writing. Calligraphy returns to Western Modernism as an iconoclastic force while in other traditions it reflects an accepted language. Plugging into the high ambition of American Abstract expressionism means the work plays on a double culture authority. Through the meeting of calligraphy and existentialism the questions of signature and identity come back into play to be drowned in a kind of liquid light. This is a kind of event, if by that word we can mean a nature of poetic ending. Something that happened is happening (and will happen) Jafar's painting reflect a quest for identity and its loss, a quest that encompasses the shards thrown up by a disastrous modernity. Together with Jafar's proposals for vast reflective steel sculptures the paintings articulate a drama with a confident public flourish. From the link between drawing and writing figures are quickly indicated before being slowly swamped in a colourful flood.

Jafar calls me and I go round to his home to help out with a press release. He shows me drawings and plans of the event he is planning in Brick Lane Banglatown. It is related to a previous piece of work that took place in a field on the outskirts of Brockhall Village, Lancashire. There Jafar harvested snow, rolling into bales while drawing long lines along the ground. Each snow roll was propped up with a sheet of glass which at first, looking at the photograph, I took to be ice. Hot and cold operate in the shock of one elegant image. He offers me a poster depicting the piece. In the plan for Brick Lane he is preparing actual bales of hay, these will rest on glass sheets and will be wrapped in coils of canvas strips which trailing back along the road are covered in signatures harvested from pupils at a local school. The use of signatures as a kind of decoration, as a affirmation of identities which are then swept up into the ongoing logic of an elaborate art project, calls attention to signing as an activity.. a kind of flourishing. This is the nature of Jafar's work.

At the recent Jackson Pollock exhibition I was similarly struck how Pollock's signature became progressively embroiled into becoming part of his paintings, to the point that the paintings themselves become a kind of signature. Jafar's project immerses itself in that kind of intensity. Just as in the Italian 'Arte Povera' movement of the 1960's the ground of painting joins with the floor itself to become a field, Jafar's art becomes such a ground. I begin to see how the move from a rural environment to an area of a city going through massive change is for Jafar a movement from one field to another. He spoke me once of the play of light on the water near his home, the sun across the landscape, now snow, glass and steel catch the light. " I like this place" he says gesturing from the toy London Docklands train. "It is change". We look out over the old docks, over the river to the Millennium Dome and I begin to realise that he understands in a startlingly sensuous way the ground level on which all this is a based. This understanding is his ambition, something that drives him around the vast spaces of this apparently into hospitable environment. His desire is able to act on this surface, the roads themselves become intertwining gestures, a graffiti whose traces become a sign of flourishing life. This perceptual field is an infectiously affirmative experience. We smile at each other. I thought that I was somehow beyond this enthusiasm but now find myself standing on it. Vertigo. The blurring of distinction between figure and ground is a major factor in decorative art. In the classical arabesque rhythm and pattern sweep both terms into an active mixture. In Islamic traditions writing and decorative design become similarly fused, design and sign become one form. Jafar's work welds together signature and painterly decoration as a ground, which then, (after a while) emerges as a figure working energetically within the environment. This shared emerging figure is endlessly at home because it continually draws its own ground. Rather than basing a landscape on a grid we find its foundation in the movement of a dynamic arabesque.. in a flourish of signatures.

Jafar's practice replaces perspective with the swift appearance and disappearance of fleeting figures, scribbles and signatures drowned in his works reflection. Rather than the gridded coherence of an American city such as New York (for example) Jafar inhabits London as a site founded on consistency of continual interruption. He looks for places to site his open and active public art drawing on an experience of a sinuous line. Mobile, broken and sometimes difficult to grasp even as it catches the light, Jafar's plan reminds of the Heron he sketched me on a piece of paper. I caught sight of one these large birds yesterday down by the canal near his studio and thought (oddly enough) of Jafar's projects as it took flight. His proposed monuments, his painting installations, the involved art event he is planning reflect an unhurried interlacing, a body of work which I can neither wholly figure out nor abandon as unfigurable. This open questions is a pleasurable one, it has its own growing momentum as it takes off and accelerates across discontinuous fields, a swift, yet unhurried flight from pre-industrial environment to a post-industrial one.

When the distinction between city and rural life is washed away in a tangled rhythm of roads there is an opportunity to investigate new sites for art. Jafar's project becomes for me a kind of writing between projects. It is able to draw itself as a multi-dimensional support, the continual liquid basis for fundamentally heterogeneous realities. It works as a number of proposals. It is the project of a starting manifestation of a immanent growth of artistic desire beyond itself. This drawing is one which indicates and affirms a flood of sensational appearances. Abstraction ambition therefore becomes (momentarily and monumentally) animate.

2. The exploration of man's inner life
Maria Pia Cappello

Abu Jafar is an important English painter who has the ability to suggest and create remarkable and evanescent moments of sudden insight connected with philosophical awakening because in his paintings there is the exploration of man’s inner self, trapped inside the dehumanizing and alienating modern world.  Moreover, he can rediscover his own inner life through a return to instinct, feeling and above all imagination. His goal is to fuse dreams and reality into a higher “surreal” dimension. Surrealism emphasized the role of the unconscious in creative activity but Abu Jafar uses the psychic unconscious in a more scrambled way because he extends the long tradition of fantasy in art.  Andrè Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination, Abu Jafar uses visual imagery from the subconscious mind to create art with automatism, exploitation of change effects and unexpected juxtapositions.

So he can be linked to Surrealism because he uses visual imagery from the subconscious mind to create art without logical comprehensibility. He is influenced by Dali’s theory “Art is a form of irrational knowledge” stressing the gap between reality and illusion. Looking at his paintings we remember Oscar Wilde’s aphorism “ All Art is the result of an experience gone through all the way to the end, where no one can go further”. Each painting could be said to describe a different part of the world that the solitary man inhabits, each painting a fragment of the implied narrative of his isolated existence. In fact he juxtaposes the primary colors achieving emotions through shapes and symbols. Most of his works are dark in background against which he puts the vibrant colours suggesting that a magic reality lies behind our complex life. The brightness put against the darkness creates chiaroscuro, an optical element that can add movement to the painting and put emphasis on the expedition from darkness towards light.

 Abu Jafar’s painting is obscure for several reasons: he deliberately suppresses the logical “links in the chain” in order to heighten the effect of the superposed images through a transversal view and segments of colours. Beauty and colours are very important since they are the true consolation he finds in a life of sadness and misunderstanding. Beauty is depicted as spiritual as physical but these two aspects are closely interwoven with the aim of shocking the viewer in order to render as vividly as possible the coherent spirit of our age.

He sets up abstractions characterized by aesthetic and philosophical issues. His paintings remember the viewer Jaques Prévert’s poetry: “Immense and red…Above the Grand Palais the winter sun appears and disappears. Like my heart will disappear….And all my blood will go look for you, My love, My Beauty, ..And find you there where you are”.

Aware of the passing of time he is in compliance with Keats’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn” “Thou still unravished bride of quietness, thou foster-child of silence and slow time….Beauty is truth,  truth beauty….that is all”. The painter conveys images without detailed marks which embody the world of silence and the old ancestral places. As the poet Seamus Heaney pointed out, this “comes out in the quality of the diction, powerful diction” the painter celebrates life as a whole. He is not concerned to judge or analyze but to contemplate in a mystical and personal way regarding the general cycles of life. Some of his paintings suggest  Hermann Hesse’s Butterfly:  “ And whether the happiness lasted a hundred seconds or ten minutes it was so far removed from time that it resembled every other genuine happiness as completely as one fluttering blue  butterfly resembles another”
Rather than images, his main concern lies with the complexities of man that he represents caught in the clash between different points of view and the Freudian theories of the unconscious and of the individual’s past memories surviving to the present and determining the nature of his behavior. Abu Jafar’s theory underpins his attempts at forging a visual image capable of rendering a synthesis of the psychoanalytical theories of our difficult time. These are  just some of the factors that, in Abu Jafar’s painting, lead to radical and revolutionary changes and new forms of psychological inquiry. It is important to remember that he uses the Cubist geometrical shapes to dominate the organic.

Henry James  developed his actions in chronological sequences, the only shifts in time being determined by “memory” digressions, Abu Jafar rejects the traditional canons by shifting the focus of the painting from external images to the inner reactions to these images which he analyses in all their finest nuances. He can be linked to Surrealist because he carries on his exploration into the nature of the self with great imaginative force and intuition to demonstrate the mind’s rule over immediate reality and to show what can be found in hidden reality. The visual “exquisite corpse” made by Abu Jafar evinces a fascination for Classical and Renaissance Art, clearly visible through his hyper-realistic style and religious symbolism.
He can be connected to Oscar Wilde’s aphorism “ Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter” because besides the similes and contrasting images that has already pointed out, Abu Jafar presents other technical devices such as personification, complex and difficult metaphors because he wants to depict men’s hopes. He sometimes uses trendy new ideas from avant-garde art, that is modern art pour l’art, to make all his human point more emphatically suggesting the traditional concept of the human being but he develops his own unique painting style. His paintings show abstract landscapes and shapes mostly in a tightly palette of colours, only occasionally giving flashes of contrasting color accents. These “alien and difficult” paintings are “populated” with various characteristics to capture the spirit of our age going deeply into the causes of historical event through the eye of a faithful reporter.   


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