Knowing Beyond, 2024, speaks to Khaled Sabsabi’s fascination with how spirituality takes shape within the everyday, as well as in the emotional inner self and the representative outer self of individuals. The installation is informed by the teachings of Sufi mathematician and philosopher Ahmad Ibn’ Ali Al-Buni and Shams al-Ma’arif (The Sun of Knowledge), a thirteenth-century grimoire on the unexplained and a manual for achieving esoteric spirituality. One of the most influential textbooks in the Islamic world, it remains controversial for its connection to mystical wisdom and formulas. At the same time, Sufis have used it for divine protection and deeper insights into Islamic sciences.
The book introduces students to the science of squares and the combination of letters and numbers that are believed to provoke paranormal effect, which Al-Buni insists is a way to communicate with jinn, angels and spirits. For Sabsabi, the idea of spells is manifold. Wherever there are blessings, there is also danger and risk. In Sabsabi’s paintings, this numerology and symbolism appear as abstractions of the original designs and formulas, based to a degree on his teacher’s interpretations of the text and his artistic interventions. Sabsabi paints a matrix of tables, charts and numerological ciphers. The numbers 2, 8 and 11 remain an essential methodological feature of the work, referencing elements in the physical and spiritual realms and conceptual ideas of completeness, and are illustrated by forms such as a periodical pyramid, which inverted becomes a 7, symbolising the link between the earth and the heavens.