AMMAN- I was walking through a narrow stairway between random old buildings in the suburb of Jabal Amman.

I took the first left, and found Platform 27 gallery: an old renovated house.

And walking through the entrance leading up to the terrace, I took a right through the gallery area and was surprised by the pieces exhibited.

Simple work that attracts the eye and leaves you in kind of silent subtle wonder.

Aflam wa Carton is the newest sugar paper collection by the Jordanian designer Mothanna Hussein who graduated from Al Yarmouk university back in 2009 as a graphic designer and is now the co-founder of Warsheh and 45 turbo studio .

Mothanna Hussein, Aflam wa Carton, 2018

No titles, no explanations nor captions: with Mothanna playing with the vibrant and pastel colored Sugar paper, he wants his audience to simply enjoy the aesthetics of the geometrical and satisfying designs that are infused with vintage film posters. 

At first, and because I was not knowledgeable of Mothanna’s previous work like Not Art, I thought the work was so simple, almost childlike. But in fact,  it was incredible. Beautiful, satisfying, with sort of vague aesthetics that attracts the eye with its simplicity and puts you at ease. Mothanna is known for unleashing new captivating design ideas.

Mothanna Hussein, Aflam wa Carton, 2018

On the left of the room were the first four pieces: geometrical harmoniousness and colorful paper squares and circles.  One in particular captured my attention: two layers of smooth pink papers, with the top layer chopped off in a diagonal roughly cut motion. It half-covers a centered blue paper circle that is sandwiched by the pinks. It felt like the kind of moon you see at dusk, with the blue half-moon shape slowly setting into the first pink layer that is coming at it like a wave.

Another piece was left intentionally by the designer to stop the viewers and leave them in wonder. Two layers of smooth black cartoon paper: the one on top was also chopped in a diagonal rough cut, covering half of a beautiful round Arabic calligraphy script- which was utterly unreadable. A black spot between all of the colors, just like a black hole.

Mothanna Hussein, Aflam wa Carton, 2018

The second room was more mysterious, but reflected the name of the series. The pieces in this room each had its own colour, emotion and identity. With a single colour identifying each, Hussein chose to strategically cut out certain areas of the construction paper to uncover what lies beneath; vintage scenes of old Arabic films. One circle showcased a female figure with half her face cut and her chest smudged. She was enveloped by a deep blue paper evoking a sense of feminine fragility and strength.

A couple of pieces on the opposite wall also had a series of parallel circle cuts: each a close-up scene of a random film character. Like a silent film that’s understandable by the means of the actors’ facial expressions and eyes. Only in this case, the movie is the paper poster, the actors are the circle cuts, and the facial expressions are the colour schemes.

The most captivating piece for me was blue with a circle cut that shows a man’s face who looks like he just got out of a fight. The face smudged with blood, and a cut on his forehead reveals the blue paper underneath.

Mothanna Hussein, Aflam wa Carton, 2018

The exhibition left me wondering:

Was the designer trying to highlight certain focal points within his compositions?

Was he trying to hide them?

Are the cut circles emerging from within the depths of the colours?

Or are the colours closing in on the circles in preparation of “The End” and credits to come on screen?

Hussein treads carefully and playfully on the fine line between Arts and Design, and that is honestly what defines him as a designer.

Read more from Sarah Abu Saad.
All images courtesy of Hussein.