A fascinating exhibit of paintings by an immigrant artist who has been quietly living in central Ohio for 17 years is on view at Otterbein University.
“Stories from Life: A Sufi-Inspired Journey of Past and Present,” in the university’s Fisher Gallery, is the first one-man show by Mohamed Hamid, known to friends as Bakri Aldogari.
Originally from Sudan, Hamid came to Columbus after living for three years in Yemen. He is married, has four children, lives in Dublin and works in a frame shop. The 40 paintings in the exhibit — mostly acrylics on canvas — blend the cultures and traditions from his background.
“I would like viewers to learn about my culture, its layers of history, civilizations and (the) destiny that shaped it,” Hamid said. “I’m a believer in a universal culture … and would like viewers to open up and interact with my work and to find something that they can relate to.”
His abstract paintings are filled with symbols, motifs, scripts and architectural forms — all of which work together to create a unified whole. The canvases are dense but not busy or fussy. The layers — juxtaposing ancient African letters with Arabic scripts, and architectural forms with human figures, for instance — create fields that are intriguing to inspect close-up and handsome to look at from a distance.
Janice Glowski, Otterbein’s director of museums and galleries, noted that Hamid, a Muslim, incorporates traditions of Sufism (sometimes described as Islamic mysticism) in his work.
“His paintings are both revealing and concealing,” Glowski said. “He’s interested in the past and the present — all of which you can find in these paintings.”
“Grandfather’s House,” depicting the home of the artist’s grandfather, presents a blocklike apartment building rendered in orange, black and tan.
“Intimacy” is dominated by two human faces in brown and gold, each dense with stamplike symbols and figures. The shape of the face on the right resembles the continent of Africa while the shape of the face on the left could be that of North and South America. Yet the symbolism is subtle, emphasizing Hamid’s ability to reveal and conceal.
“I think I will (always) be inspired by images of my culture … and keep visiting my visual memory, which, of course, formed in Sudan,” Hamid said.
Hamid’s works are complicated, forceful and energetic. Installed on two floors of the gallery, the paintings reveal a Columbus artist who has been virtually hidden for years. It’s a good find.