In 1999, Dara Art Gallery, was founded by renowned Sudanese artist Dr. Rashid Diab and his then partner and artist Dr. Mercedes Carmona, showcasing mainly Diab’s works and other more rich works by important names in the Sudanese art scene like Ibrahim Elsalahi, Yassir Abu El Haram, Hussein Gamaan and Ahmad Shibrain. Some of these artists’ works are not easy to find since they’ve grown to become important figures in the global art scene.
Born in 1957, Rashid Diab is an internationally recognised artist who studied and lived in Spain for 20 years. After his return in 1999, he established Dara art gallery – named after his daughter (Dar Al Naim – Dara for short) or perhaps his mother who also held the same name – and it became the space where he exhibited and hosted other Sudanese artists exhibitions along with art courses by Carmona who is also an African art and aesthitcs theoretician, up until 2005 when he opened his centre (Rashid Diab Arts Centre) in a different location and turned this space into his private gallery space.
Two decades after the opening, Dara art gallery is rebranding under new management and back up in the Sudanese scene, with the reopening exhibition of Rashid Diab’s work from over the years. The exhibition, curated by Yafil Mubarak, consists of paintings and an interesting collection of print works by Rashid from the 80s and 90s, highlighting the techniques he used when he was living in Madrid, Spain.
If anyone is familiar with the style Rashid Diab adapts personally and incorporates into his fashion and the design of his arts centre, would not be surprised by Dara art gallery’s aesthetic and interior design. With many elements similar to the ones at the centre from the architecture, tiling and painted glass all the way to the gardening and furniture choice; gives the gallery a sense of class and authenticity.
Divided into halls, the reopening exhibition highlights the different mediums used by Diab over the years varying from paintings on canvas with the famous style that Rashid adapted in the recent years with women wandering the deserts and he became known for them, to the many printmaking techniques and mediums like metal plates, wood and even plastic that he developed in Spain. For us, we were specifically interested in the archived works and the printmaking artworks he created during the 80s and 90s, as they are not the first thing you think about when you mention Diab’s work now but hold an essence of a large period of his life and a dedication to a study.
During his stay in Spain, Rashid Diab obtained a masters degree in a form of printmaking that is called “Etching”. The technique uses metal plates, acid and resin where the desired painting or sketch is carved on the metal and then covered with resin and dipped into acid that eats into the metal only in the exposed areas creating recesses that can retain ink.
The metal plate is then used to create many prints and artworks that go through testing first until the artist is settled on a colour palette or choice to use to create a series or perhaps only just one. Diab often created a series of 30 or 50 prints after going through several artist proof tests.
One of the works exhibited now at the gallery is the etching print from 1992 titled (Family conversation) protected under a vintage wood and glass frame displaying an intimate setting of 3 figures with bird-like faces seated in what seems to be a living room with 2 couches and a photo frame in the background. One of the figures in the couch facing the viewer, holds a baby in their hands while an animal figure is also seated next. The final print work is a mere result of the metal plate dipped in acid and printed with ink and no addition of colour while in the archives exists 5 artist proof test prints that are vivid in orange and green with yellow.
The gallery now directed and curated by Yafil Mubarak who also happens to be the son of Rashid Diab and Mercedes Carmona, holds a large collection of Diab’s etching works, archived and labelled, some are artist proofs and others are final works that are the remaining of a collection. The manager who made use of the quarantine period into developing the archiving and documentation system for the gallery and for Diab’s work, also restored a few works by Carmona to be exhibited soon.
With plans of expanding, the gallery is considering to include more works and exhibitions by different Sudanese artists aiming to put Sudanese art in the map and put the gallery out into the scene again. With a previously made appointment, the gallery is open for visits to the public and we were eager to have a look ourselves. The reopening exhibition has been on display from the 28th of March and in view until the 3rd of June.
Written by: Reem Aljeally
Edited by: Thadde Tewa