Ayyam Gallery Dubai presents “Compressed Thoughts”, a solo exhibition of the work of Lebanese artist Nadim Karam.

Presenting the artist’s newest sculptural work, the exhibition develops the artist’s recent “Stretching Thoughts” series.

Nadim Karam, 'Compressed Thoughts 10', 44 x 50 x 50 cm, Rusted steel, 2017.

Nadim Karam, ‘Compressed Thoughts 10’, 2017, rusted steel, 44 x 50 x 50 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Silent Energy

Running until 6 January 2018 in their Dubai space, Ayyam Gallery presents the work of Nadim Karam in “Compressed Thoughts”. Extending the practice of two recent bodies of work – including his “Stretching Thoughts” series one step further – which explored the “infinite possibilities of creative thoughts to go beyond boundaries”, and “Neglected Thoughts”, which considers abandoned potential, this latest exhibition experiments with the idea of “condensing far-reaching thoughts into a palpable essence”. This idea takes its visual form through a tangle of rusty steel rods, which Nadim Karam sees as compressing the thoughts, ideas and essences of his practice within. He writes:

If countless strands of human thought could become infinitely condensed into a block of compressed matter, how would this intense zone of thought exist? Would all thoughts of the universe fall into it? Would our own thoughts fall into it? What would be the intensity of these chunks of unimaginable complexity? Could we reach pure thought, distilled to an essence? Compressed Thoughts is about silent energy, a hive of continuous internal agitation with explosive power.

Nadim Karam, 'Compressed Thoughts 13',44 x 44 x 61 cm, Rusted steel, 2017. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Nadim Karam, ‘Compressed Thoughts 13’, 2017, rusted steel, 44 x 44 x 61 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

This silent energy is felt through the steel rods, taking their cue from the artist’s familiar visual and sculptural language, seen within previous series. In “Compressed Thoughts”, the artist continues to work with recycled steel rods, previously housed in residential buildings in the suburbs of Beirut. As the exhibition’s press release (PDF download) explains,

Extracted and rendered into pure matter, these steel rods are the starting point of the Compressed Thoughts series. Through these works, Karam questions the place of thoughts in space and time – examining the concept of pure thought, the form in which it resides, and the possibility of reaching it. His compressed steel rods are representations of the creative mind: extreme condensations of energy within a restrained space. Each individual work is a unique configuration, and all share a still, concentrated potential.

Nadim Karam, 'Desert Sand', 200 x 225cm, Acrylic, Coated Steel Sheets, Steel Cylinders, 2009. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Nadim Karam, ‘Desert Sand’, 2009, acrylic, coated steel sheets, steel cylinders, 200 x 225 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

The Transformation of Materials

Art Radar spoke to the artist, where he described his conceptual, creative process in extremely simple terms: “I found materials transformed. They corresponded to my thoughts. I exhibited them.” This concise methodological approach can be felt through the works, which rely on the properties of the materials to convey their message.

In “Compressed Thoughts”, Karam is interested in extracting the essence from a single substance, and in this case, the ‘thoughts’ from compressed steel rods. In this way, the artist explains, his current exhibition is a compression of his previous works: “So many of my figurative works and public art projects are condensed inside these small abstract blocks.”

Nadim Karam, 'Heavy Silence', 181 x 122 x 60 cm, stainless steel, edition of 3, 2016. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Nadim Karam, ‘Heavy Silence’, 2016, stainless steel, 181 x 122 x 60 cm, edition of 3. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Art, the city and architecture

Karam is a renowned artist in Beirut, having formed the collective Atelier Hapsitus in 1996, a satellite group of Lebanese architects and designers. Karam explained how he founded the collective, from “the need for a new structure to deal with projects on the edge of art, architecture and the city”. He continues to lead the collective, which is made up of a cross-fertilisation of disciplines and nationalities, feeding into the experimental nature of its creative work.

For Karam, the artist’s role in the city is poetic and imaginative, and the role of artist collectives a testimony to this sort of ideological, freeing thought. Talking about his conviction that cities need to dream, and that artists are crucial in allowing this dreaming to take place, Karam told Art Radar: “We address the intangible, the poetry of life with big dreams, different from other roles in society.”

Nadim Karam, 'Hannibaal and the Elephant’, 200 x 124cm. Stainless Steel, 2013. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Nadim Karam, ‘Hannibaal and the Elephant’, 2013, stainless stell, 200 x 124 cm. Image courtesy Ayyam Gallery.

Born in 1957 in Senegal, Karam lives and works in Beirut. Studying in Japan as a student, Karam explains how the way of thinking and the unique experience he had there is reflected in his work. Intensely multidisciplinary and influenced from his training as an architect, his bold artworks tend to challenge common preconceptions. As Ayyam Gallery states, the artist

has created his own concepts and a distinct artistic vocabulary that tackles the universality of the human condition, working towards the reconfiguration of environments.

Anna Jamieson


“Compressed Thoughts” by Nadim Karam is on view from 6 November 2017 to 6 January 2018 at Ayyam Gallery Dubai, (11 Alserkal Avenue), Al Quoz 1, Dubai.

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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