East-West: Objects Between Cultures

Tate Britain, London

1st Sep 2006 – 18th Feb 2007

Tate Britain displays British art from 1500 to the present. East-West: Objects Between Cultures explores Christian-Muslim encounters and exchanges over the past five hundred years by introducing a selection of related objects into the Collection displays. Rather than impose a rigid version of this complex history, fresh connections are suggested between traditions, objects and historical contexts.

The variety of objects on display provides an insight into the relationship between societies sometimes considered distinct. This is revealed in the hybrid nature of many of these artefacts, which have been formed and transformed between cultures.

Some represent mercantile goods, some document the establishment of Muslim communities in Britain, while others reflect contemporary politics. It is hoped that this project will challenge static ideas of national history, art and identity.

Ali Omar Ermes – Shadda 1980 (Watercolour and gold on paper – 635 x 615mm – Lent by the British Museum)

Ali Omar Ermes was born in Libya and has lived in England for the past twenty-five years. His work takes Arabic script as a subject and dramatises calligraphic forms, often creating layered meanings with additional poetic inscriptions. This piece is of the ‘Shadda’, a diacritic symbol used in Arabic to double letters and alter emphasis.

The verse inscription relates to social equality. Like the Tachiste works displayed in this room, ‘Shadda’ depicts a gesture imbued with meaning. Although some of these Tachiste works are reminiscent of calligraphy, Arabic script is given spiritual significance in Ermes’ work, as a written expression of Qur’anic revelation.