Not subscribing to traditional associations of line drawing and painting with colour and shape, El-Salahi says that, for him, ‘There is no painting without drawing and there is no shape without line… in the end all images can be reduced to lines.’ In most of his watercolours, he conveys movement through frenzied gestural marks and gradated lines.
Many of El-Salahi’s post-prison works comprise a number of drawings or panels. Starting with a single sheet of paper, he would draw a relatively small image and continually add more sheets until he felt the picture was complete. ‘I didn’t have much space in my studio in London, so I decided to work on lots of smaller sheets’ he says. ‘From time to time I put them together to see what was happening and to find out who wanted to come in.’