In 1998, El-Salahi moved to Oxford and turned to the lush British countryside for inspiration. Reminded of the haraza trees that grow along the Nile in Sudan, he conceived a new series of paintings called The Tree. Characterised by brilliant colour, a sense of movement and a deep connection to nature, each tree grows organically outward from a central point on the canvas or paper until it covers the majority of the support. With its central core, roots bound to the earth, and branches reaching up to the heavens, the tree represents a complete spiritual being. This ongoing series serves as a means of healing and spiritual meditation for the artist, but it also signifies the artist’s claims of individual agency beyond labelling and categorisation within the arts.
The legacy of the Arab world across time and geographies and the impact of a recent trip to the Alhambrain Granada, Spain, are the point of departure for El-Salahi’s most recent series Flamenco Dancers, in which the artist returns to one of his earlier, experimental techniques using thick black lines and flat blocks of colour.
One can perceive the sobriety of the flamenco dancers, backed by the rhythmical singing and drumming sounds of the Sufi ceremonies of Omdurman.
These recent works represent a culmination of the artist’s experiences to date. They demonstrate a continued engagement with the modern art practices he was first exposed to at the Slade, his mastery of calligraphic abstraction and the meticulous and meditative approach learned from his post-prison line drawings. Having experienced the joy of a life reclaimed in Oxford, El-Salahi retains a strong relationship with his home country, regularly revisiting and reconnecting with its landscapes, traditions and motifs.