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Once more unto the breach
by Muhammad Yusuf September 14, 2017
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The UAE art scene, gone into hibernation during summer, is now up and roaring. There is an explosion of art events as the sun softens, starting with the thunderous announcement of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s opening on Nov. 11, gallery happenings with cutting edge shows and a plethora of activities from the National Pavilion UAE – la Biennale di Venezia.

Green Art Gallery, Dubai, is presenting a group exhibition (Sept. 13 – Oct. 28) that reflects on the relationship between art and architecture, exploring the ways they influence and feed off each other.

Infusing symbols that have been traditionally used in architecture, the artists in the exhibition question the relationship of man, objects and the space they inhabit. They produce fleeting and ambiguous realities which momentarily disturb our conditioned relationship with the objects that surround us. The exhibition titled ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ features works by Farah Atassi, Ana Mazzei, Nika Neelova, Hemali Bhuta and Elena Alonso.

In her grid-like paintings, French-Syrian artist Atassi considers space through an exploration of decorative motifs and architectural models. The artist creates ambiguous spaces with nods to Fernand Léger, Matisse, Malevich, Mondrian and Charles and Ray Eames. In her new painting ‘Modern Ballet’, she extends the question of architecture to the body.

Men and narratives, in their inseparable relationships, define Mazzei’s interest. It is from this perspective that her work develops and grows. For her, art, architecture and landscapes construct in themselves, a fiction that connects them, resulting in installations, settings and objects.

Working primarily with sculpture and large sculptural installations, Neelova’s work seem to inhabit a post human world in which human needs and definitions have long since been forgotten, remaining only as a vestigial memory in the forms of the sculptural subjects. In the exhibition, the artist presents a new work from her ‘Lemniscate’ series.

Bhuta’s multi-disciplinary practice is primarily concerned with the notion of an ‘in between’ or ‘transitory’ space and the elements that contain or create such spaces. Her site-specific sculptural works generally lie on the floor like fossils of bygone eras, sometimes embracing their spaces, and other times destabilising them. Through the tension between the works and the spaces they inhabit, viewers experience a state of ‘in-between-ness’.

Since its inception, Alonso’s drawing practice has cultivated an ambiguous terrain in her iconography, somewhere between geometric abstraction and organic representation with allusions to the body.

While using the language of other disciplines such as architecture, design and handicrafts, she liberates them from their practical use. The materials she uses further accentuate the ambiguity of the composition.

1x1 Dubai, the gallery that is one of the strongest voices for Indian art in the UAE, is hosting ‘Liquid States’, its first solo exhibition of Delhi-based artist M Pravat (Sept. 13 – Oct. 31). ‘Liquid States’ follows from Pravat’s long ongoing engagement with the fluctuating optics and fluid materiality of architectural forms and built environments.

His latest series of works include sculptures, paintings, drawings and collages that emerge out of ideas he has been testing in his studio for over four years. Across 180 new artworks, ‘Liquid States’ brings together a condensed experience of a world where geometries are inverted and the solid, liquid and gaseous become interchangeable states.

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde is bringing to the fore the works of the effervescent Ramin Haerizadeh titled ‘To Be or Not To Be, That is the Question. And Though, it Troubles Digestion’ (Sept. 13 – Nov. 2). Outrageous art, no less than outrageous titles, are his forte.

Spanning almost 20 years, his work is a rare and ambitious feat of the human spirit, carried in an endlessly renewable source of vital energy and creation, a constant force of mutation and subversion.

XVA Gallery is showing the works of Arezu and Sarvenaz Farsian (Sept. 23 – Nov. 7) titled ‘Net Worth’. Through Arezu’s ‘That Obscure Object – Redefined’ the audience will witness an expression of frustration and defiance by the artist, in her attempt to redefine the meaning of “object” in reference to the female form.

In the series, she uses and repurposes imagery from other people, places, times and societies, and juxtaposes them against images from her individual experience. The result is a narrative of macabre and humorous provocation.

‘My Magical Garden’ will be Farsian’s debut series with the gallery. Her abstract works on paper consist of meticulous pen work and intricate cut outs. She describes her work as free of narration, with priority given to form.

Arezu was raised in Iran, but resides in Dubai. However, the concerns about the perception of women in Iran that developed during her adolescence are still in the forefront of her mind. Farsian, based in Iran, explores themes of beauty and abstraction, turning toward her inner self and leaving the narrative of her country unmentioned. She turns to her introspective self for freedom and peace.

Finally, the National Pavilion UAE – la Biennale di Venezia - has commissioned Dubai-based artist and writer Hind Mezaina to develop a series of events in dialogue with the curatorial themes of the UAE’s current exhibition ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’, which explores the theme of playfulness in artistic practice through the work of five UAE-based artists.

Titled ‘Home: Food | Music | Sports’, the series will include panel discussions and film screenings across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

“This series of events picks up various threads at work in ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’, and explores how food, music and sports contribute to building a sense of home and community”, says Mezaina. “Each panel includes one of the contributors to the publication which accompanied this year’s exhibition, and is an opportunity to bring these themes to life. I’m excited to welcome the public to a lively series of discussions and seeing how these ideas develop throughout the programme”.

The first event will take place at Meylas Restaurant in Abu Dhabi at 3pm on Sept. 16. Mezaina will discuss the power of food to create a sense of home and community by connecting people, in conversation with author and creative writing lecturer Deepak Unnikrishnan. Unnikrishnan teaches in the Writing Program at New York University Abu Dhabi. His course Street Food invites students to explore the city through food.

The discussion will be followed by a screening of ‘Soul Food Stories’, a 2013 documentary directed by Tonislav Hristov, at 6pm, in collaboration with Cinema Space, held at Manarat Al Saadiyat. The 70-minute film is about a small village in Bulgaria, whose residents hope to overcome their religious and ethnic differences and come together around food.

The second event will be held in Dubai in October, focusing on music and identity, followed by a discussion around sports to be held in Sharjah in November.

The current edition of the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale runs until Nov. 26. It is one of the world’s most prestigious arts events and attracts more than half a million visitors to each edition.

‘Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’ presents the work of Nujoom Al Ghanem, Sara Al Haddad, Vikram Divecha, Lantian Xie and Dr Mohamed Yousif. Curated by Hammad Nasar, it explores the theme of playfulness in artistic practice as a source of vitality and inspiration, and a mode of experimentation with movement, sociality, times and places.

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