Bait al-Hikma (House of Knowledge)
Opening Saturday 9 April 2011 at 14:00
The exhibition runs from 2 - 30 April
To view on-line catalogue, click on DOWNLOADS at the bottom of this page
The Bait al-Hikma was a library and translation institute in Abassid-era, Baghdad founded in the 9th century. It is considered to be the intellectual center of the Islamic Golden Age. Having obtained the secret of papermaking from Chinese prisoners taken at the Battle of Talas (751 AD), the library flourished, supported by stationery shops selling thousands of books per day.
Renowned as a great center of learning, scholars from around the world were brought to the library, preserving and translating Greek, Indian and Persian texts including the work of Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid, Galen, Arybhata and Brahmagupta. Perhaps its greatest resident scholar was Al-Khawarizmi, the father of algebra.
It is said that when the library was ransacked during the Mongol invasion of 1258, the river Tigris ran black with ink for six months from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river. The library was again ransacked during the American invasion of 2003, and remains partly destroyed.
- Extract from on-line catalogue text by Jaco van Schalkwyk, 2011
Two of Jaco van Schalkwyk’s drawings were included in Drawlinks (GALLERY AOP, October 2010) and Bait al-Hikma (House of Knowledge) is his debut solo exhibition at GALLERY AOP. On show are about twenty drawings mostly in black and some with minimal colour. Most of the drawings started out with delicate geometric patterns, lines or grids drawn in pencil or pen and ink, which are partly or virtually completely obscured by another layer/s of synthetic printing ink (used for printing newspapers and readily available in quantities) sprayed on strong artist’s paper with a power tool. The difficulty/impossibilty in controlling the application of the ink from this powerful tool and the ‘threat’ of destruction or obliteration that it poses to the first layer of carefully drawn images, gives Van Schalkwyk the perfect setting in which to explore the kind of loss or point of extinction represented by events that cause great rivers to run black with ink for months.
Van Schalkwyk’s drawings are informed by the illustrious legacy of abstract expressionism, tachisme, Art Informel, Art Autre (strands of gestural painting embodied in the work of Michel Tapié), and the work of the Gutai-group in Japan. The latter straddles the divide between abstract gestural painting and performance and is essentially a dialectic between material and spirit. Jiro Yoshihara, its leader said: “In Gutai art the human spirit and the material reach out their hands to each other, even though they are otherwise opposed to each other. The material is not absorbed by the spirit. The spirit does not force the material into submission. If one leaves the material, then it starts to tell us something and speaks with a mighty voice. Keeping the life of the material alive also means bringing the spirit alive, and lifting up the spirit means leading the material up to the height of the spirit.”
Jaco van Schalkwyk holds a BFA in Drawing from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. In 2002 he left his studio to tour with American author and recording artist Carl Hancock Rux. Van Schalkwyk has since pursued a career in music, film and design. Van Schalkwyk works as a freelance designer and lectures part-time in video at The Open Window School of Design, Pretoria. He is a director of iMPAC, founding member of Albatross Films and vocalist of Jaco+Z-dog.