The encounter between Abed Abdi, a twenty-two year-old Palestinian recently arrived from Israel, and Lea Grundig, his teacher at the print and etching department at the Dresden Academy, was of great significance for him.6 Their relationship went far beyond the usual student-teacher format; Grundig opened her home to him and was his social and cultural mentor for most of the time he spent in the GDR.
It is, however, important to emphasize that this somewhat surprising encounter between a young Arab victim of the Nakba and the Jewish Holocaust survivor Lea Grundig was marked by their political and experiential common denominator, their commitment to social and political justice, their protest against war and the heavy toll it exacts from humankind.
Abdi’s two-dimensional and relief work engages with different materials taken from the long history of art, building materials, and culturally charged objects.
The art materials include gesso, graphite, charcoal, oil pastels, pastel crayons, water, acrylic and oil paints, carbon copy paper and printing materials. Beyond conventional painting materials, Abdi’s work also contains varied substances taken from hardware and building materials: sand, straw, ceramic paste, ropes, jute sacks, wires, netting, tin and copper. The specificity of culturally charged objects is presented through the inclusion of glass marbles, wooden beads, carpets, embroidery panels, assorted fabric sheets, paper talismans, copper plates, candlesticks, clocks, calendar, dolls, measuring tape, keffiyah fabric, photographs, and UNRWA printed sacks, etc.
This collection of materials that combines together the worlds of art, building and Palestinian culture is the fundamental layer of Abdi’s art. He carefully chooses his materials, each choice clearly loaded with references before even becoming part of his imagery, hence becoming a charged substance into which Abdi›s emotions and ideas are stylized. Once this collection is in his hands, Abdi displays his images and narratives to create the complex tableaux of his art.