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Nasser Soumi in Indigo Light: "Not blue, Indigo"


Michel Nuridsany

Not blue, indigo.


Indigo throughout, strong and deep.  The scent of the Mediterranean – encountered in Greece, Morocco, Marseille, all the way to Palestine, where the sun blends with the sea – it burns and radiates, heavy, in the vacant heat.


Indigo on objects, paintings and at the very heart of the hybrid works made up of drilled, sawn, nailed, glued wood, with small engines that activate strange spinning devices and propellers.  Pieces of wood gathered on beaches, bleached, eroded by the sea salt, worn by the swell of the waves.  Twine entangled or stretched between the teeth of a saw like the strings of a lyre, cord tightly binding stones, bones.  Indigo enhancing, skimming, brushing and enveloping flat surfaces and smooth curves, dents and hollows, knots and bulges.  A luminous presence.  A stately and serious presence.  Sumptuous material.  A colour more royal than royal blue.


Indigo: the word comes from the Spanish – the plant is a member of the papilionaceous family – it has butterfly shaped corolla made up of five petals: the upper standard, two lateral wings and the carina.  The plant thrives in the hot regions around the Mediterranean and was cultivated as a valuable crop in the past.


But this matters less to Nasser Soumi than an almost forgotten story dating back to his early childhood.  When he was only three or four years old, he came across an indigo bead which completely enthralled him.  He was so obviously and so intensely captivated that his father, sharing his wonder, bought the bead from him.  The bead was then forgotten, discarded.  Later the little boy refound the bead and sold it to his father again.


Such half-forgotten stories enchant our dreams, thrill our souls.


Nasser Soumi evokes childhood whenever he talks about his art, as though this were the realm from which the rest springs.  And indeed it is during childhood that our unfulfilled needs and deep terrors are laid down, just as are the main tendencies of our future beings, that time develops and confirms.  Hence, the constant presence of hints of childhood, of memories, of elements of play, of simple but ingenious devices, but also strong emotions, violent and pure. 


The elementary is there; the sea, the earth, the air.  And, judging by some of the project models I saw in the studio, fire will soon be added.  Here is Nature in its essential brutality, the world's life force, the passing of time and its wear and tear, but tamed, mastered and transformed.  Shapes eroded by sand, wind and the swell of waves, meticulously tied and bound with lengths of string, commanding attention, like strange and precious talisman or jewels, reminiscent of childhood discoveries.  Forms that are both coarse and strangely elegant.  Works of art that spurn pedestals or frames – to be placed simply on a table, on a chest of drawers.  "Placed" works, just as others are suspended, hung, erected or inscribed directly upon the wall.  Works to be held, feeling their weight in one's palm, to be stroked and caressed – objects that are not distant, but familiar like toys or charms.  It is this quality I treasure most in Nasser Soumi's work, in his constant search and exploration of new directions, but with Nature ever-present.


A bird's nest, a piece of driftwood, a series of more or less parallel wavy wood cuts-outs to depict the sea.  A vertical, flat sea, on which triangles are arranged to form the hull and sails of a boat.  Another work still underway, where the same wavy shapes are cut out of the wood to make room for a spinning wheel, powered by a foot pedal to produce a sound reminiscent of the ceaseless breaking of waves upon the shore. 


For Nasser Soumi has recently began to add to his paintings and painting boards not just pieces of wood, graters and moulds, but also propellers and cardboard cut-outs that move when a button is pressed, driven by an engine that may be hidden but which more often than not forms an integral part of the work.


These simple devices come into play like the essential elements of life, as do the discarded objects he has salvaged.  The past and the future belong to time and it is time that shapes this elegant and masterful collection, so open to the forces of nature. 

Work made up of poor materials, instilled with enchantment by the royal beauty of indigo.

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