eL Seed's Words Spreading Around The World

By GQ Middle East
19 February 2019
EL Seed, London
The French-Tunisian artist's solo 'Tabula Rasa' exhibition is hosted at Lazinc in London until March 9

Street art can often be misunderstood. But eL Seed, the French-Tunisian artist whose creations blend Arabic calligraphy, urban streetscapes and graffiti, is trying to make sense out of it.

eL Seed

“Words are a beautiful tool but a dangerous tool,” he told GQ Middle East at the end of 2018. “You can hurt, you can kill and you can harm with words, but you can also heal, inspire and help, and that’s the most important thing for me – the weight of the word.”

It was last year that eL Seed shot to fame on the back of a creation across dozens of building in the Manshiyat Naser neighbourhood of Cairo.

Manshiyat Naser, Cairo

His work has adorned public spaces across the globe: from the favelas of Rio and slums of Cape Town, via Paris and New York, to Downtown Dubai.

From January, Lazinc in London has hosted Tabula Rasa, a solo exhibition of new works by eL Seed which launched the gallery’s 2019 programme and celebrated its first year anniversary at 29 Sackville Street.

eL Seed’s first UK exhibition showcases a range of acrylic on canvas paintings, which incorporate the artist’s signature style: an adaptation of traditional Arabic calligraphy.

Tabula Rasa, Lazinc

From the beginning of his practice, eL Seed has consciously used his art as a tool to build bridges between people, cultures and generations. His work is the result of literary and philosophical research and carries direct significance to the place and community within which they are placed.

“I truly believe that art is a way to open dialogue,” eL Seed said. “I like to think that my artwork can cut through the boundaries that we place between ourselves; whether physical, cultural or linguistic. My exhibition at Lazinc represents a new style of painting, where I am attempting to break down my thought process into layers. It also asks the audience to question the way they think and how much they have been affected by assumption or misconception.”

Tabula Rasa, Lazinc

Glenn D Lowry, Director of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has described eL Seed’s recent public mural in Cairo as “a metaphor for seeing what had been previously invisible; the dignity and richness of the lives of the Coptic community of Zaraeeb”.

Tabula Rasa at Lazinc builds on eL Seed’s continued engagement with the Arabic script, the artworks not only invoke the words and their meaning but also their movement. For this exhibition, the artist has developed on his process, stripping down the works, in an effort to access his own ‘tabula rasa’.

Tabula Rasa, Lazinc

The concept of ‘tabula rasa’, pioneered by 17th Century philosopher, John Locke, argues that at birth the human mind is a complete, but receptive blank slate, upon which experience imprints knowledge. In relation to his canvases, eL Seed has taken the idea of the tabula rasa as a starting point, with the aim to alter deep-seated preconceptions that are commonly held about the Arabic script and culture.