Portrait of Kevork Mourad. Photo: by Connie Tsang

Syrian-Armenian artist Kevork Mourad’s way of creating work is unique to himself, and this month — starting June 21 — visitors can witness him putting together a six-metre structure at the Ismaili Centre in South Kensington, London. The work will be completed by July 1, the official opening date, and will then be on display at the Centre’s Zamana Space until August, 2019

The exhibition, entitled Seeing Through Babel, comes through a partnership with the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, where Mourad had an exhibition in 2019, and the Ismaili Centre, and has been inspired by the Old Testament story of Babel.

In that story, mankind is punished for attempting to construct a tower to heaven, an act of hubris that led God to create multiple languages so as to prevent such collusions happening again. For this exhibition, Mourad explores the story of Babel, using visual imagery as a means to connect people across the language divide.

Making artworks in public is integral to Mourad’s practice, and in addition to inviting the public to witness him creating it he will also hold talks at 11.30am and at 2.30pm every day during this period. The work, which uses the artist’s trademark techniques — monotypes and drawing onto the surface of the work — is designed to allow visitors to walk in and around it, allowing closer consideration of its themes.

Observes Kevork: ‘I have often thought of this story, as it is said to be a moment that divided mankind. I see it as a moment when diversity was created.’ Describing his work, he points to how, through visual language, ‘it can connect people who speak different languages and come from different cultural backgrounds. Where Babel separated, visual art connects.’

Says Henry S. Kim, the Director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum: ‘We are very pleased to be able to present an exhibition in London for the very first time and even more so that it is Kevork’s premiere in the city. He is an extraordinary artist who has developed a unique technique to tell stories visually.’

Atassi Foundation, In the Age of New Media exhibition: installation shot. Photo: Nairy Shahnian

Liakat Hasham, President of the Shia Imami Ismaili Council for the United Kingdom, says: ‘The reopening of the Zamana Space after such a long hiatus is an important moment, as it offers the opportunity for The Ismaili Centre to contribute to the thriving arts corridor of Exhibition Road.’

The Ismaili Centres — they are many all over the world — are symbolic markers of the permanent presence and core values of Ismaili communities around the world. Meanwhile, the Aga Khan Museum has been established and developed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The Museum’s mission is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contribution that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage while often reflecting, through both its permanent and temporary exhibitions, how cultures connect with one another. Designed by architect Fumihiko Maki, the Museum shares a 6.8-hectare site with Toronto’s Ismaili Centre, which was designed by architect Charles Correa. The surrounding landscaped park was designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.

A video documenting the creation of Seeing Through Babel will be shown during the show. In addition, visitors can also explore the world of jewellery, textiles and one of a kind objects for sale at the Centre inspired by the Collections at the Aga Khan Museum.

Atassi Foundation, In the Age of New Media exhibition: installation shot. Photo: Nairy Shahnian

Exhibition dates: 1 July 2019–15 August 2019

Open invitation to view the artwork being created: 21–30 June, 11am–6pm

Meet the Artist Public Day: 6 July 2019

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Freelance journalist covering fine art, photography, film and tech. UK based

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