The Sudanese artist Mohammad Omar Khalil has been making art for over 50 years in a career that has taken him from his early training in Sudan to Italy in the 1960s and, since the early 1970s, New York.
Homeland Under My Nails, an exhibition of Khalil’s work that serves as a retrospective of his printmaking practice, opened in January at London’s Mosaic Rooms.
Unfortunately, the exhibition can’t be seen at the present time because the gallery has closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Until the lockdown in London is lifted, videos of Khalil speaking about his career and the works exhibited can be viewed on the gallery’s website and Vimeo page.
One of the videos shows Khalil at work in his studio in Queens, New York, and demonstrates not only his skill but also his obvious love of his craft. “Now, magic,” Khalil says at one point after meticulously applying ink to a plate he has etched. He lays a piece of paper over the plate and turns a wheel on the press slowly and assuredly so that neither the plate nor the paper slips as they pass under a roller applying heavy pressure. After a few tense minutes, Khalil gingerly grabs the paper and lays it out on the table: a print has been made, the ink expertly transferred from plate to paper to reveal patterns and outlines.
‘My Homeland Exists in My Nails’
The London exhibition pays homage to Khalil’s origins but also denies strict categorization of his work as being art of the Arab world by an Arab artist. Khalil notes that he has lived and worked in New York longer than anywhere else, but he also observes, “My homeland exists in my nails, it expresses itself whenever I create an artwork.”