Nja Mahdaoui, Sarkha 1, 2019, Mixed media on linen canvas, 150 x 150 cm
JAFR. The Alchemy of Signs
Elmarsa Gallery, Dubai
Elmarsa Gallery is pleased to present JAFR. The Alchemy of Signs, the gallery’s third solo exhibition with Tunisian artist Nja Mahdaoui. Featuring a new body of work that reveals the full breadth, imagination and scale of his oeuvre, this exhibition unveils his most recent paintings produced between 2019 and 2021.
Born in 1937 in Tunis, Nja Mahdaoui lives and works in Tunisia. He graduated from the Academia Santa Andrea in Rome and pursued his academic training at the Cite International des Arts and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Notable for his meticulous work in ink on parchment, he has been portrayed as a Choreographer of Letters. While his work is inspired by Arabic calligraphy, he considers himself an explorer of signs. His artistic approach is based on abstract signs and compositions - devoid of actual textual meaning - which he refers to as Calligrams or Graphemes.
Nja Mahdaoui received a number of distinctions and international awards, including the Global Art Awards in 2017, the Grand Prize of Arts and Letters from the Tunisian Ministry of Culture in 2006 and the UNESCO Crafts Prize for the Arab States in 2005. He has been the Jury member and Honor guest of many international events and biennales such as the Sharjah International Arabic Calligraphy Biennial, the International Arts Biennial of Tehran, the Abu Dhabi Art Festival, and the International Jury of the UNESCO Prize for the Promotion of the Arts. He designed monumental artworks such as windows murals for Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California (2018), window facades for the ALECSO headquarters in Tunis (2015), the KAUST University Campus Mosque in Saudi Arabia (2010), the Gulf Air aircrafts (50th Anniversary, 2000) as well as large scale sculptures and tapestries for the airports in Jeddah and Riyadh, and the Aramco head office in Dharan, Saudi Arabia.
His works have been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications around the world, including Word into Art at the British Museum, The Brush dances & the Ink Signs at the Hermitage Museum, Perspectives: Arab & Iranian modern masters at the Saatchi Gallery, the Arab Book Art at the French National Library, and are in major public collections including the British Museum in London, the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, Mathaf - Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, IMA - Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and The National Gallery of Kuala Lumpur.
This exhibition marks 15 years of collaboration between Nja Mahdaoui and Elmarsa Gallery, both in Tunis and Dubai, presenting his third solo show, after Trance in Dubai (2016) and Awj - a retrospective exhibition of his works from 1966 to 2018 - in Tunis (2018).