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Bidding welcome
by Muhammad Yusuf September 14, 2017
 Print    Send to Friend, the art market website headquartered in New York City, had, in 2008, launched the first online auctions platform exclusively for works of art.

artnet Auctions features 24/7 online auctions and immediate purchases of Modern and Contemporary paintings, prints, photographs, and more.

Closing Sept. 12, it presented ‘Middle Eastern Art: Curves and Lines’, a sale highlighting the diverse trends in abstraction throughout the region.

According to artnet, artists from the Middle East have been creating innovative non-representational art for centuries. “Drawing from a range of inspiration, from Western expressionism to traditional calligraphy, these artists create complex, rhythmic compositions across a variety of media”, it says.

The auction allowed art lovers to explore and bid on exceptional works by sought-after artists such as Faramarz Pilaram, Mohammad Bozorgi, Hadieh Shafie, Youssef Nabil, Shadia Alem and Moustafa Fathi. Bibi Zavieh, Senior Specialist, Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, artnet, said: “With the end of summer and the kick-off of a new auction season, we are thrilled to have a sale dedicated to the different ways artists of the Middle East have explored abstraction throughout the years, with inspirations ranging from traditional Islamic art and calligraphy, to neo-expressionism and hyper-realism.

“Many of these artists have roots in Syria and Iran and reflect upon the richness of their visual culture and its heritage. Abstraction has been a tool to express or come through with the complexities of the societies they live in. We have noticed in the past few months a growing demand amongst our buyers for abstract art and the first few days of the sale had in fact shown a promising bidding activity”.

For example, Iranian artist Pilaram (1937–1982) is considered to be one the founders of the Saqqakhaneh school of art, a contemporary art movement that focuses on Iranian heritage and mythical motifs.

In the 1960s he began to investigate and incorporate the use of popular Shi’ite art and two-dimensional geometric forms, as well as calligraphy and illumination. Later, he began to incorporate various calligraphic styles, especially nasta’liq and shikasteh-like script. Melding these various calligraphic forms, Pilaram created lively compositions dominated by brilliant fragments of words, letters, and images.

Also figuring in the auction was Syrian artist Abdullah Murad, a pioneer of Arab Expressionist art. Murad spontaneously creates paintings that aesthetically range from controlled designs to dynamic brushstrokes.

Each one of his asymmetrical compositions explores a certain palette, and he expands the space of the canvas through juxtaposing numerous colours. The artist has stated that he does not recreate nature but instead illustrates entities that did not previously exist.

Murad’s paintings demonstrate mysteries that viewers must uncover through layers of details ranging from transparent elements to thick impasto as well as cutouts and mixed media textures.

Iranian artist Leila Pazooki’s works question the concept of borders and the way information and language can be contorted, yet which are key factors for mutual understanding across societies.

‘Democracy’ is a neon tube installation that features the word “Democracy” written backwards and reversed in Farsi. This piece is Pazooki’s commentary, filled with sarcasm and criticism, on the current political and social climate throughout the Middle East, where notions and values of democracy are challenged.

Othman Moussa (Syrian, b. 1974) is a still life painter greatly influenced by the ongoing Syrian Civil War. His work ‘Untitled’ represents the youth involved in the Syrian conflict. In his typical hyper-realistic style, he depicts two explosives taped to a baby bottle.

The artist isolates the unconventional explosive device by placing it in front of a solid black background making the scene incredibly haunting. The evolution of Moussa’s career is traceable through the growing simplification of his compositions.

Hadieh Shafie is influenced by her upbringing in Iran and guided by her interests in the temporary nature of experience and the struggle to find identity. She explores these themes in her art by placing importance on process, repetition, and time. Taking its title from the famed poet Sohrab Sepehri, ‘Sohrab 4’ is an example of Shafie’s compositions constructed of hand-painted paper inscribed with Farsi and coiled into miniature spools.

When rolled, the hand-painted edges of the scrolls become vibrantly coloured concentric circles, which she lays compactly within a square frame recalling the meditative practices of Sufism. Each spool contains text within the scroll and below the scrolls from Sohrab’s poem ‘Dar Golestaneh’ (‘In the Garden’).

The Farsi text below the scrolls reads:

How green I am today!

And how alert my body!

What if Sorrow creeps down the mountain?

At the beginning of his artistic career, Mouteea Murad (Syrian, b. 1977) explored the suffering of man in his expressionistic, largely gray compositions. His style drastically changed after 2007 when he began infusing elements from traditional non-representational Islamic art into his work.

Using Fibonacci’s numbers and sequences as a base for the composition, he plays with the dynamism of geometric forms to create the illusionist work entitled ‘Trail No. 38’, which was placed on auction.The numerous dimensional planes disappear and reappear throughout the composition, a reference to the Russian Suprematism movement of the early 20th century. Though born in Syria, Murad now lives and works in Sharjah.

With an evolving aesthetic that has sparked innovative techniques, Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul is a crucial link between modern and contemporary Arab art. Dahoul’s ongoing ‘Dream’ series explores the physical and psychological effects of alienation and solitude on the human condition.

Relating to his own experiences of longing and estrangement, he often depicts female figures with changing mental states. ‘Untitled’ portrays a lone woman isolated within the confines of the canvas.

With a limited colour palette, the work demonstrates life’s instability. The woman illustrates the vulnerability of humans when faced with violence, as she closes her eyes to experience a different, more peaceful, reality. Thus the artist utilises contemporary modes of figuration to describe the psychological terrain of his homeland’s constantly changing template.

Recognised as a leading figure among the ‘New Generation’ of contemporary calligraphers, Bozorgi builds his work on the path breaking modern creations of his predecessors. He seeks to advance the art of calligraphy through experimental formalism.

In his meticulously designed compositions, text multiplies as it is infused with energy and appears to move across the canvas or paper, originating from and returning to the centre like cyclical rhythms of nature.

In keeping with the aesthetic principles of Islamic art, he maps his compositions according to precise mathematical structures and symmetry. He never deviates from the meaning of words, despite the innovations in his script.

Egyptian photographer Nabil’s distinctive technique of hand-colouring silver gelatin prints removes the blemishes of reality. He disrupts prevalent notions of colour photography and painting, as well as assumptions about the aesthetic sensibilities associated with art and those identified with popular culture.

His hand-colouring evokes a sense of longing and nostalgia and allows his photographs to flicker between our time and another era.

Alem is a visual artist and her work, based on spiritual background, focuses on interpretation between different genres and notions of culture in an era of glocalisation.

A prominent figure, as both an academic and practicing artist, Fathi’s work possesses elements of modernist approaches blended with recent experiments in art - a combination that furthered his native Syria’s contemporary painting scene.

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