Survivor’s retrospective abstracts Beirut blast via embroidery

Majd Abdel Hamid is a Palestinian artist whose work mostly focused on small-scale, abstract and colorful embroideries. The self-taught embroiderer, who is also a survivor of the 2020 Beirut blast, opens his first retrospective show comprising of embroidery and video installations evoking the passage of time in Brussels this month.

Born in Syria and now based in Beirut, 33-year-old visual artist Majd Abdel Hamid embroiders fabrics he collects and items he finds, from cushions to kitchen towels. While Abdel Hamid’s work is conceived as “sculptures in time,” they are artisanal and give a feeling of amateurism.

At times colorful and at other times just white on white, they are designed as an abstract depiction of time and the places he has been, touching on wars, political and economic crises and the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been like an acceleration of traumas. It’s not even one trauma that you have. It’s been quite challenging to process what has happened and how can you deal with it,” Abdel Hamid told Reuters TV.

Palestinian artist Majd Abdel Hamid poses for Reuters during his exhibition

Palestinian artist Majd Abdel Hamid poses for Reuters during his exhibition

Abdel Hamid was injured in the explosion of ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut port in August 2020, with wooden fragments still stuck beneath a scar on his head. The embroidery stitches in his “A Stitch in Times” represent mental and physical scars and pains.

The show at an exhibition space of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermes, at the back of the Hermes store in Brussels, will be the first showing of all his work.

Abdel Hamid describes embroidery as a “timeless medium,” a slow process of doing and undoing. One display piece, “Salt of the Earth,” shows threads suspended and crystallized by salt. Another shows him unthreading white bedsheets in his home.

“Embroidery is always used to celebrate the pride of a country, the pride of the family, it’s about motifs. When you embroider raw reality, dramatic situations or violence, it creates tension,” he said.

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