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Read the latest from artists staying in residence at The Mosaic Rooms’ guest studio

Q&A with artist Massinissa Selmani – our current Mosaic Rooms studio resident

Q1/ Please can you introduce yourself, and tell us where people may have previously encountered your work in the UK?

I was born in Algiers, but now live and work in France. In general, my practice is an experimentation of drawing. I’m interested in documentary forms and newspaper clippings that I explore through drawing.

My first exhibition in the UK was at The Mosaic Rooms in 2014. This was a mixed media group show with myself and five other Algerian artists. I presented installation Diar Echems (Maisons du soleil) (2013-2014), a work inspired by the overcrowded neighbourhood of Diar Echems in Algiers, which is known for the riots that took place in protest against squalid housing conditions. The piece considered the development of a slum on the site of an adjacent football pitch, and the new social and spatial order this created.

installation Diar Echems (Maisons du soleil) by Massinissa Selmani

installation Diar Echems (Maisons du soleil) by Massinissa Selmani

Q2/ You recently took part in London’s 1:54 art fair. What did you do there?

During the 1:54, I presented drawings and took part in the artists talks. I was in conversation with Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation

Q3/ You have been busy since your exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms, can you tell us about some of your recent activities/shows and any upcoming projects?

After the Mosaic Rooms, I was selected for Dakar Biennale. A few months later, I was invited by Okwui Onwezor to the Venice biennale 2015:

Then I was invited by Ralph Rugoff to the Lyon biennale, where I also did a residency with Veduta platform as a partner of the biennale. I also did a residency in Mexico in lithography studio.

In addition to this, I have taken part in some group exhibitions and arts fairs and a solo show at the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré in France.

Actually, I’m working on an experimental animated short film and working on new projects experimenting with drawing. I will also publish my first Monography (in ibook format) soon, with Naima Editions in France.

What’s The Inspiration Behind Our New Show? Find Out In This Q&A With Artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke


Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 09.56.03

Q1/ Your first UK solo exhibition – The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls – will be opening at The Mosaic Rooms 10 October. Can you tell us a bit about the show? 

The exhibition is divided in two parts that, of course, belong together. The Future Rewound consists of works that reflect on contemporary means of control – observation, finance, housing/prison, neglecting the past. The Cabinet of Souls instead deals with history as the loss of a past – in the form of memories, identities, hurt and sorrow. The two themes developed during our research about the exhibition space, Tower House – now the home of The Mosaic Rooms. We wanted to know the history of the building. How was it used before it became a public space? Who lived within its walls? These questions derived from the initial inspiration that a place could still be occupied by its former tenants – not necessarily in a ghostly way, but in terms of legacy. This became the common theme of both parts of the exhibition, yet in a more general sense of a contemporary life that is “haunted” by its history.

Q2/ You uncovered some very interesting stories relating to The Mosaic Rooms’ history, and the history of the local area, during your research for the show.  Can you share some of these with us and give us a brief descriptions of the new works it inspired? 

I have learned very much about the history of Tower House. It was the former home of Imre Kiralfy, showman, dancer, composer and impresario, who co-founded London Exhibition Ltd., and who was responsible for many of the Colonial exhibitions held at Earls Court Exhibition Centre, which is close to The Mosaic Rooms today. It was clear to me that the exhibition in the former premises of this man had to reappropriate the past of the building. I felt somehow haunted by it and wanted to bring it back to the present day. The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls is the outcome of this feeling of being haunted by the past of a place.

The Mosaic Rooms Grand Room

Archival image of The Mosaic Rooms Grand Room, Victoria era.

Q3/ You have a number of other shows coming up – tell us when and where we can see them?

The next solo exhibition will be in Lisbon, Portugal, in January 2015 at Cristina Guerra gallery and then another solo in March at Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai, UAE. Both gallery exhibitions will premier new works.

The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls will be on show at The Mosaic Rooms 10 October to 29 November 2014. Plan your visit here.


“Yet the horizon is so free, it exists no longer”



I made these 63 drawings in a state of great paralysis this July in Beirut

Today, this paralysis is that of the entire world

Paralysis of meaning

Paralysis of thought

Yet the horizon is so free, it exists no longer

Yes I want to show intimacy in my drawings

The intimacy of the fear of others

Of that which is afraid to appear

Don’t consider the one who looks like a voyeur, for through his vision he completes

the form to be seen

Taking shape until infinity, at that same moment when the seeing and the blind eye

Exchange a look

My fingers’ nervousness creates the invisible

Emptiness and silence offer up movement

With the urgency to draw

My head detaches itself from the rest

And emptiness comes to me

And to the other, words


London, October 2013

Lawand: Equinox, From Beirut to London is now on at The Mosaic Rooms.

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm, Entrance Free

This exhibition is part of the Nour Festival of Arts

Associated events include: Poetry From Art-Writing the Body workshop, and Art & Poetry artist’s talk.

Q&A with the founders of Beirut’s Carwan Gallery, Pascale Wakim and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte

carwanblog2Founders of Carwan Gallery, Pascale Wakim and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte

1/ Tell us about the first ever object you commissioned? 

As a curator duo (Pascale and Nicolas) we co-commissioned the whole collection of objects we presented during Design Days Dubai in March 2012. Probably one of the most exciting objects was the Gradient Mashrabiya form Mischer’Traxler (covered by Wallpaper magazine here). The challenge was to give inspiration to this duo of Austrian designers to reinvent a traditional object like the mashrabiya from a culture they didn’t know much about. The experience of teaming them up with a Lebanese craftsman was a great experiment and brought many interesting reflections on function and aesthetics.

Studio mischer’traxler teamed up with an expert woodworker in Lebanon to redefine the constructive system of the traditional mashrabiyas: delicate wooden window screens often found in Middle Eastern architecture. Inspired by the process of lathing the small wooden parts for mashrabiyas, mischer’traxler focused on exposing the many steps of production, to make the craftsmen’s work visible and understandable to the observer. The result ” a sideboard ” is composed of a network of more than 650 distinct pieces of manually carved wood. From rectangular slats to refined decorative elements, all stages are visible within the one object, which becomes increasingly more defined, detailed, and fragile, but at the same time progressively more three-dimensional.

2/ Name Three up and coming designers from the Middle East who in your opinion show the most promise & briefly explain why you like their work and think they will be successful?

India Mahdavi (Paris): because Carwan Gallery will launch an incredible new collection entirely produced between Turkey and Lebanon with the Iznik foundation. It will be the first major launch for collectable design of the architect Mahdavi. She is an extremely creative architect and designer who uses her mixed cultural background between Europe and the Middle-East to sharpen a unique vision in design. Her experience in the fashion industry, before launching her studio, also gave her great skills in the manipulation of textures and colors.

carwanblogIndia Mahdavi – Landscape Table, Image courtesy of Carwan Gallery

Taher Asad-Bakhtiari (Tehran): a new up and coming designer from Iran preparing his first collection of unique kilims. His work was unveiled by Carwan Gallery for the very first time in the world during Design Days Dubai in March 2013.

imageTaher Asad – Bakhtiari Baz Kilim, Image courtesy of Carwan Gallery

Karen Chekerdjian (Beirut): Karen has an incredible sensibility that we appreciate very much. Her design is timeless and brings a geometric poetry that very few oriental designers have. Her new series of “ikebana” shaped mirrors will be for sure a great success.

3/ In your opinion who is the most influential established designer from the Middle East region? 

Nada Debs is probably the most influential and known designer in the region. She is a very inspiring businesswoman and what she managed to accomplish is remarkable.

4/ Why did you set up Carwan? Tell us briefly about Carwan’s mission and why it is important.

Carwan Gallery was founded with the desire to flourish the huge potential of an entire region, in terms of creativity, production capacities, sensibility and awareness towards design. Choosing the limited edition field to express its ambitions in a region where low-tech and craft productions are still the standards, the gallery multiplies various types of international collaboration to encourage cross-cultural dialogue, and push those standards into new directions. To create new venues taking the region as a constant source of inspiration, Carwan defines projects and collaborates with designers and architects whose unique approach can enrich the project vision.

We also focus on a mission on promoting “collectible design”, still unknown for a great majority of people in the Middle-East, it is a real challenge to push this new reality, help it grow, and encounter the public through exhibitions, exchanging and transmitting our passion, encouraging the wide potential of this region to emerge, and inspire more visitors to become collectors. Becoming a collector is accessible to everyone who has an interest in unique objects. Collecting is also investing in unique objects of which the value will grow with time while creating an unique environment of “functional art works” to live with.

Find out about their upcoming Pop Up Exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms here

Q&A with Resident Mara Goldwyn

1/ Why are you in London?

As Slavs and Tatars put it in the presentation of our recent book Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz, here at the Mosaic Rooms last week, everything the collective does begins and ends with books—except, of course, that a book is never an end, it is always another beginning.

As I am the group’s designated “idea detective” or perhaps “research directrice”—two terms I imagine to be polite euphemisms for a hopeless bibliomaniac like myself—I came to London to hunt for books. The Warburg library was one of my main destinations; the unpretentious and intuitive style of browsing there suits well our “lateral” thinking and research strategies.  I was not disappointed: I seemed to have tracked down unlikely ancient links between Turkic-Oghuz tamgas and Polish noble Sarmatian crests, the “psychogenetic” sources of letters, and some interesting theories by a mysterious turn-of-last-century gentleman named Sheikh Habeeb Ahmed about the numerological value of particular phonemes over several alphabets.

2/ What are your impressions of the city?

3/ Where have you come from and what is happening there right now?

I’ve come from my home in Berlin, Kreuzberg, where I’ve lived for many years now. Or as is the word du jour among the arterati, I’m based there.

The phrase based in Berlin pretty much sums up what’s happening in the city—people are rolling through like snails and not gathering much moss, but leaving behind a trail of creative slime, so to speak.

 There’s a cultural-capital bubble in Berlin that’s absolutely bulging at the moment, which, in my opinion, the city engages by producing ever more tragicomic imitations of itself.  That is not to say that there aren’t still interesting things happening there; maybe I’m just falling out of love… I just want my baby back the way she used to be.

4/ What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think?

I had the chance to see the exhibition of Karl Bloßfeldt— breathtaking photographs and meticulous iconographic cataloguing of the “artforms” in plantlife—at the Whitechapel here in London. He was known for his 1929 book of photographs, Urformen der Kunst.

 Moments of overlap between science and its mystical forbears tend to excite me, especially those from the nethertime at the beginning of the 20th century, when the modern world was still working out the kinks. It’s always nice to have a reminder that those kinks are still pretty kinky. That is, no matter how far our telescopes can see, how many particles we collide or genes we splice, there is still a yawn of uncertainty as to what energy or force compelled all this beauty to be. It’s exhilarating.

5/ Who practising at the moment inspires you?

That’s a tough one. To be safe, I’ll just say the whole independent publishing industry, exemplified by our latest publisher, Book Works. The lack of distance—and hierarchy—between execution and distribution of ideas is very refreshing to me.

6/ Where are you travelling to next and what are you most looking forward to when you get there?

My next scheduled trip is to Istanbul to do research related to Slavs and Tatars’ current project, Long Legged Linguistics. I’ve spent much of the last several months researching alphabet politics in the former Soviet sphere, chasing down “extra” Cyrillic letters that were generated to represent sounds in Turkic, Finno-Ugric, Altaic and other types of languages, and now the focus is on a particular Turkic phoneme, ng, and its corresponding “extra” Arabic grapheme in contemporary Uighur and Ottoman Turkish, ? .  This is a letter that does not exist in the Arabic language but was rather made up to approximate a Turkic sound. While the sound and the letter are still hanging around Uighuristan in Western China, with the dramatic Romanization (“modernization”) of Turkish in Turkey in the late 20s, ng was dropped from the Turkish alphabet and, it seems, downplayed in the spoken language, now still traveling only very subtly through noses… nnnggg.

As I am writing this there have been further eruptions in Taksim and Gezi squares, it seems a particularly apt moment to be investigating the complexities of Turkish/Turkic national identities and the stakes of language politics…

7/ Where do you hope to be in five years?

I’ll quote Slavs and Tatars quoting an old Soviet maxim, “The future is certain. It is only the past that is unpredictable.”

Thank you Mara!

Mara was resident whilst undertaking research in London for the upcoming Slavs & Tartars solo engagements at the Dallas Museum of Art and GfZK Leipzig in 2014. Visit their website.

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