The Leighton House Museum in London, a historic redbrick house once inhabited by the renowned Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton, is currently hosting a captivating three-piece exhibit called "Kheit," meaning "thread" in Arabic.
This remarkable display showcases the creative talent of Nour Hage, a British-Lebanese artist, and will be open to the public until July 16. The Arab British Centre approached Hage last year to commission this project specifically for the museum, allowing her to visit the museum alone while it was closed for refurbishment. This provided her with the unique opportunity to immerse herself in the awe-inspiring ambiance of Leighton House, which features an exquisite Arab Hall adorned with tiles from Syria, Turkey, and other places.
Hage found herself captivated by the intricate tiles that embellish the Arab Hall and the staircase halls within Leighton House. These tiles vary in design, featuring floral patterns, figurative elements, and even Quranic inscriptions, all symbolizing divine protection upon the house. Additionally, Hage discovered tiles depicting suns and moons, which possess talismanic qualities, igniting her creative imagination and serving as the inspiration behind two of her textile installations: "Her Rays" and "Sukun."
While working on her pieces, Hage stumbled upon the writings of Sheikh Muhammad Jamal ud-Din Al-Makki Al-Amili, a 14th-century poet hailing from her Lebanese hometown of Jezzine. These verses guided Hage in selecting specific colors and materials for her artwork. For instance, she obtained sumac berries from Jezzine to color "Her Rays" in light brown hues, symbolizing the protective power of the sun. In contrast, "Sukun" encompasses shades of grey-purple, achieved by soaking the fabrics in an iron bath containing rusty nails. The third artwork in the exhibition, titled "Our Garden," was meticulously hand-stitched by eight individuals from the neighborhoods surrounding Leighton House, fostering a sense of community involvement.
Working with textiles holds a profound significance for Hage, given her background in fashion design. She emphasizes the emotional connection that textiles evoke, as they are an integral part of our daily lives. We envelop ourselves in textiles through clothing and blankets, appreciating their inherent softness. Hage finds allure in their delicate nature and is drawn to the fragility they possess. The exhibition at Leighton House Museum showcases her artistic talent and offers visitors a glimpse into the transformative power of textiles in creating immersive and emotionally evocative experiences.