“It’s what’s in between that counts”: Ibrahim Azab on his layered and deconstructed artworks
The Slough-born and London-based artist uses a mix of digital and analogue processes to dive into notions of memory, materiality and the circulation of ideas.
- Ayla Angelos
- 23 November 2021
Think of the British town Slough and you’ll most likely conjure up the bleak yet humorous scenes of The Office – the deadpan UK series from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. It’s also where artist, collagist and sculptor Ibrahim Azab grew up, “so you could imagine, there wasn’t much going on growing up,” he tells us. “We just had to find shit to do like skating, taking photos and tagging lampposts.”
Luckily, Ibrahim soon discovered photography through one of his friends who would always bring a film camera with him to parties and gatherings. “Eventually we all ended up with some form of camera,” he continues. As time went on, Ibrahim finished up his final art project in school and applied to The Arts University Bournemouth. He got in and that’s where photography really started to feel like a viable option for him. Don’t Look Where I’m Pointing was the culmination of this, a final major project that spawned an obsession with “how we process interior thoughts and the outside world,” he notes. After an internship with M.A.P and a role as a lighting technician at Big Sky studios – which is where he started dabbling in collage – Ibrahim landed an assistant curator job at Peckham 24, where he met a community of artists and assisted the likes of Tom Lovelace, Jo Dennis and Thomas Albdorf.
These days, you can find Ibrahim nose-deep in his practice, building a variety of unusual works that explore the relationship between the subconscious and reality. His work has that unique cut-and-paste aesthetic that’s layered and playful, and looks like it’s made using both digital and analogue techniques. “I think there’s a lot going on in my work, and in many cases I’m still trying to get to the bottom of it,” he says. “What it really comes down to is looking at how information is transported within and out of the subconscious space, consumerism, visual language and significantly the act of looking.”
In this regard, Ibrahim aims to question why we’re attracted to certain things, and why these things are important. Materiality plays a key role. “Through digital and physical interventions of the photograph, I want to bring those visceral and physical worlds together and investigate a language that has been internalised by many of our generation, caused by the internet, consumerism, globalisation and the environment,” he says.
Ibrahim’s most recent piece is a commission made in response to the exhibition entitled Armour at HOME by Ronan McKenzie. This specific work is more three-dimensional and modular, rather than a flat image; pieces of laser-cut visuals are placed on top of one another, nails are exposed and a palette of neon green, grey and orange give it an almost mechanical, dystopian aura. “It was a challenge for myself in which I learnt a lot of cool and valuable processes that I wouldn’t have got involved with otherwise,” he says, “but is something which has made me excited to move on to future works.” The piece is also inspired by the construction of a polythene zip lock bag, giving it a new meaning as it’s dismantled and reappropriated into a new, sculptural artwork. It’s also made in response to two designers he admires, Samual Ross and Wale, “whose practices cross many avenues that I’m interested in.”
In FOPDTMM, Ibrahim explores the relationship between object, sound and photography, as he constructs collages made from magazine cut-outs and his own personal imagery. In this body of work, he shines a light onto the production of memory and materiality, achieved through both digital and physical methods of producing an art piece. It’s a complex practice and one that’s hard to define, often leaving the viewer with many questions. But this is how Ibrahim hopes his audience will feel. “I always want to leave it to the viewer for them to make their own mind up about what’s going on in the work. After all, it’s about the circulation of ideas and information and understanding change,” he says. “So if there’s one thing to take away from it, it would be to listen and look carefully at yourself and the world around you. I hope it inspires people to ask questions, realising that broken things can be put back together in your own way and the truth or reality isn’t always the most important part of understanding a story. It’s what’s in between that counts.”
Ibrahim Azab: ATIS-MI2A (Copyright © Ibrahim Azab, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.