Artist in Focus - Issam Kourbaj - February 2015

Engaging with the history of his native country Syria is an ongoing theme in Kourbaj's art. In 2007 he recorded his daily thoughts in an abandoned 10,000 page Encyclopaedia Britannica. He called this series One + eleven = two, where mark-making and drawing on individual book pages becomes an intense daily ritual.

Reflecting upon his memories Kourbaj explores Arabic scripts, patterns, collages, geometrical forms and monoprints.  Cutting  through sheets of paper, sanding and tearing their surfaces, drawing  upside down and with his 'wrong' hand as he is naturally right-handed are further methods he applies.  Volume by volume he exhausts the mark-making terrain using carefully selected inks, oils, pencils and waxes as well as solvents  giving the manuscripts a translucent appearance. To him, each page presents a space to react and play with. Gradually the bleed-marks, the texts, the illustrations and the new stains command a continuing 'heart-beat' and 'mind-beat' within the palimpsest. Certain ideas are short-lived through a number of drawings and might be revived a few weeks later; other ideas create unstoppable sequences that vanish - and never return.

©Issam Kourbaj and Renée Pfister, 2015

For further information about Issam Kourbaj's work contact 
[email protected] 
One + eleven = two, 2007
Ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica
Volume twelve
Mixed media
H500 x W285 mm