A Scribe in Paradise
Nemir Adjina, 2017
The work of Nawar Ajina
It may be said that the job of art is to explain the world, to create in the viewer, a certain experience that may lead to greater understanding of our situation. Nawar Ajina is an Iraqi/French artist. His view of the world, like all people of mixed race or cultures, can never be black and white. His very genetic code reaches back to the holy city of Nejaf in Iraq, a city of Saints and Mystics. So it can be expected that if a person such as Nawar where to take upon himself the task of explaining the world through Art, that such an enterprise would necessarily be syncretic, drawing from hidden riches deep in his soul, opposite traditions such as western/eastern, reduction/abstraction, immanance/transcendence, clarity and confusion.
The art of the Islamic world, through which Nawar, like it or not, is connected, has as its purpose the manifestation of Divine Truth, either through a calligraphy both depicting the divine word and transforming it into the forms of nature, a nature viewed as a sign of Divine providence, or as Geometric pattern making that seeks to dissolve the concrete appearance of what is perceived and lead the mind of the observer to an appreciation of the hidden patterns and unity operating in the world.
Both these fundamental aspects of Islamic art have as their operative starting point the creation of a line upon a blank surface. In calligraphy the line, which begins as a dot, extends to form letters and words, the words form themselves into an abstract geometric pattern or zoomorphic representation. For Islamic geometry, that same line, starting again as a dot, extends itself according to a precise pattern, which refers both to itself and the transcendent order underlying appearances, we are asked to contemplate the pattern, to allow it to seep into our consciousness from where its message can be received and understood: all is one.
This line, this extended dot, is precisely the domain of Nawar Ajina’s art. Yet he is not an Islamic artist, he does not copy the sacred texts according to prearranged forms, nor does he lay out complex and ordered geometries, he is not communicating a message of Divine Unity or a transcendent Absolute.
What Nawar is doing, as I see it, is explaining an even more fundamental truth. His line lives in the world that existed before writing was invented, before forms became clarified, before this and that came into being, before knowledge of good and evil, before we ate of the forbidden fruit. As I look at his Art, images come and go, refusing to be tied down, landscapes, connections, entanglements, all adding up to something and nothing, all saying “what you see is what you choose to see”, refusing to be tied down to either abstraction or representation or anything else.
This potent combination of utter simplicity (line on surface) and vague complexity, forces the viewer to confront his or her own role in the designation of meaning and even content and form. Whatever it is I see and experience is first just the permutations of one moment of contact of pen upon an otherwise incomprehensible ground, and second a product of my own consciousness. Most mystical art is only mystical in that it tries to depict or represent the mystical experience, like love poetry, it can only convey in words or images an incommunicable experience, Nawar’s work is mystical in that it says nothing at all about the mystical experience, it is not about mysticsm, yet it acts as a catalyst to realization, refusing the mind’s demand to know and so turning it back upon itself and the act of experience, it is art to be tasted, not understood. In the final understanding that what I see is what I create in my mind through experience and imagination, the world out there, if it exists, is dumb, existing only as a state that can only be hinted at, being as it where a priori to mind and experience. From that unknown arise the infinite permutations of that singular something, springing into or out of or as consciousness at the moment the pen hit the surface, that necessary condition that something must touch something in order for anything to exist or be known. Nawar’s child like scribbling, apparently spontaneous, yet arising out of the unknown promptings of his soul, and a long process of removing all that is unnecessary, resonate within us down from and back to a time of undifferentiated wholeness, demanding that we come to terms with what it is to experience, to know, to understand, to be human.