Hosting abstract, getting real: Art4you Gallery offers shows in many genres - GulfToday

Hosting abstract, getting real: Art4you Gallery offers shows in many genres

Horse with calligraphy by Mazher Nizar.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Art4you Gallery, founded by Rengi Cherian and whose exhibitions are curated by Jesno Jackson, has been super active recently. Two shows hosted by it followed literally on each other’s (art) heels. The first was a solo exhibition of Chris Barley titled Poetry of Abstraction (Nov. 9 — Dec. 6), and the other was a group show titled Strokes of Strength with the theme of Horse (Dec. 17 — 26), with artists from different nations taking part. Both the shows happened at Arabeska City Walk.

French abstract expressionist Chris Barley’s collection showcased his leading style. He considers himself a bit of a nomad as he has spent a large part of his life travelling the world. He is originally from France, but has lived away from his homeland for over 25 years, in Africa, East Asia and now the Middle East (in Dubai since 2001).

He has a background in psychology and martial arts, which consisted of years of studies of the body and the mind. As a peripatetic “immigrant” or “expatriate”, his work is infused with all the cultures and atmospheres he has experienced. As a scholar of the body and the mind, he attempts to connect to memories and peoples’ unconscious, through his art. Strong influences for him have been Jackson Pollock with his technique of “action painting” and others part of this movement like Hans Hofmann, Lee Krasner, and Joan Mitchell.

In displaying Barley’s works, the Art4you exhibition thus explored an unparalleled period in American art. It revealed the full breadth of a movement that will forever be associated with the boundless creative energy of 1950s New York. Abstract Expressionism in the United States emerged as a distinct art movement in the immediate aftermath of World War II and gained mainstream acceptance in the 1950s.

 A work by Chris Barley.

It was a shift from the American social realism of the 1930s influenced by the Great Depression and Mexican muralists. Key figures in the New York School, which was the epicenter of this movement, included such artists as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Norman Lewis, Willem de Kooning and Theodoros Stamos. The movement was seen as rebellious and idiosyncratic, encompassing various artistic styles, and was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence.

It put New York at the centre of the Western art world, a role formerly held by Paris. Barley’s technique is expressive and radical, revealing a certain psychic intensity. He has a fascination for the relationships between energy, the body and the mind and is dedicated to the expression of emotions and energies through colours, textures, and movement. Due to their abstract nature, his paintings speak for themselves and preserve the mystery behind them: it is for the viewer to decode them.

 Chris Barley is based in Dubai.

He says that “the paintings speak very differently to everyone, depending on their relationship with colours or textures and the emotions or memories they bring.” The titles might sometimes give a bit of a hint; but the artist would rather not put out spoiler alerts so as to not influence viewers’ own interpretations. Through the use of colours, textures and strokes, each piece at the Art4you exhibition told a story through happiness, sadness and reflection.

The show threw a challenge to look beyond surfaces, appreciate the beauty of shared harmonies, and recognise the strength, resilience and the urge for unity that exists in all of us. Due to his nomadic life, Barley takes pleasure in evoking distant places, atmospheres and memories in his works. A love of nature imbues his style, which has often been compared to that of Pollock’s. Barley is also determined to create an emotional connect with memories.

Curator Jackson commented that “influenced by these factors, layers and rich textures blend together in an array of colours and shapes. This very bold colour mixtures plus iridescent mediums, creates pieces filled with dimensions, light and depth.” Each work goes through multiple incarnations, as it evolves with layers upon layers added to and combined in increasing complexity. Barley’s artworks are completed using palette knifes, paint drips and much yellow, blue, green and red shades.

 A work by Anahita Ansari Pour.

The freewheeling colour combinations, brush strokes and other techniques, are intended to encourage a thought shift for the viewer. Just as his travels have taken him physically to exotic foreign locations which changed his perceptions, Barley’s artwork is intended to transport the viewer emotionally to another level, unique for each viewer, depending on the cultural baggage he carries.

Among locations in the UAE, Barley has shown his works in Dubai International Art Centre, Gallery 76, Dubai, for the Celebrating Artistic Expression show; Bedia Gallery, Dubai, for exhibition titled Spring Life; Reem Art Gallery, Dubai, for Ramadan Al Khair exhibition; Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, at the Art meets Fashion show in collaboration with International Designer League and at Dubai World Trade Center, during World Art Dubai art fair.

ART4you has hosted many events this year, from art talks to live performances and workshops and exhibitions. It is not only a gallery but also is an art event organiser with Coffee Mornings that discuss and create art, a convenor of Art Meet Ups with themed Live Art shows and a host of Art Community events.

It also prepares portfolios for artists, helps students tackle IGCSE, IB and GCSE board exams, offers art mentoring support and assists artmakers get social media exposure and promotion via the media. 

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