With a dive into the personal explorations of the mind, artist Hani Khalil unveils his “Unconsciousness” and what he deems a definition of himself, ideas, and reality. In the gallery hall of The French Institute in Khartoum, Sudan, Khalil surprised the audience with bold artworks soaking in unmissable strokes of red and black, shifting to complete abstraction from his Sufism implied figuration artworks. In his painting “Abeer” – 100*100 cm, acrylics on canvas -, he builds upon layers and layers of paint that he finishes with bright red in circular movements leaving windows to the layers underneath while the upper line of the painting remains untouched by the red. In this simulation, the artist mimics the layers of the brain and roots of thoughts one could carry.
Centring the hall, is an installation piece that is composed of an old motorcycle, ropes, broken parts of metal, and a TV satellite dish with the word “system” written on it. The artwork takes your attention in the midst of the exhibition with the bright palette that the elements are painted in. The artist is expressing and opposing how the system works pulling people in its direction. Hani has simply put those elements together in a way that can be read with no complication or misinterpretation. With the motorcycle on the ground, tied with thick old ropes to the satellite dish that hangs from the column facing the bike. Although the artwork was very simple in its composition, it made room for itself within the growing contemporary art scene in Khartoum.
Many artists have been and are working on political themes of the country, but this artist chose to do that in a way that reaches the masses smoothly and in what I think is an overly direct way that in distance may seem complex but is very clear once you are up close.
The politics did not stop with the motorcycle in Khalil’s “The unconsciousness”, it extended to the gallery’s black room filled with the same pastel toned, bright palette the artist used in his installation. Wall to ceiling strokes filled the small, brightly lit room as an invisible sound gets louder the longer you stand in there. The sounds playing are only recognisable to those who have witnessed the sit-in of the military headquarters during Sudan’s ongoing December 2018 revolution. “The top of the tunnel” sounds of rocks banging on steel in a slow yet loud rhythm that forms a beat that creates a sense of dreadful nostalgia to a nation’s solidarity against a vicious system.
The exhibition contrasts and travels between what the artist carries and expresses internally and what the exterior factors of politics, and society are enforcing into the current situation. In my opinion, this created a gap in experiencing the exhibition as a well thought through journey, yet the contrast of its elements alerts you to each of them separately in a manner that allows you to focus on every component with your entire “consciousness”.