The bright colours of Symphony in Duality.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Firetti Contemporary @ Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz, has announced the inaugural solo exhibition in the MENA region of Laura Lappi. Titled Metamorphosis and curated by Mara Firetti, the exposition runs February 26 to April 26. Born and raised in Finland, Lappi currently lives and works in NYC.
Her sculptural practice explores the relationship between physical spaces, man-made structures and the human mind – in short, the psychogeography of places. She draws inspiration from ancient basilicas, cathedrals, and mediaeval Scandinavian wooden structures and her sculptures capture diverse architectural forms, evoking qualities found in globally celebrated architectural masterpieces.
She uses wood as her primary medium. It establishes a direct connection to her homeland and the natural world, ever-present through forests, architecture, furniture, and as a source of heat during Finland’s extended dark seasons.
In Metamorphosis, wall sculptures from her Basilica series meticulously craft historical blueprints using repurposed wood. Lappi employs a charring technique using fire, inspired by the ancient Japanese art of yakisugi (a traditional Japanese method of wood preservation).
The transformative process – from whole to partly burnt - results in a deep, mesmerising black texture with dark, silky and pitted surfaces that reflect and absorb light in hypnotising ways. Light plays a crucial role in Lappi’s works, since through it she can mould and shape perceptions, due to the interplay of shadow and illumination. Light also connects the works to time and the cycles of nature.
Mara Firetti before a composition.
Transformation is central to Lappi’s practice. Wood in her hands transitions from a living organism to forms that come from discarded, reused, cut and reorganised material. Pentagons, triangles, trapezoids and circles intersect and the charred material itself recalls the passage of time, loss and remembrance, since the wood ultimately vanishes.
Through fire, wood undergoes a profound metamorphosis, assuming an in-between state, half-dead, half-alive. Fire also connects the work to humanity’s earliest use of energy. The scale of the works, often larger than human dimensions, provides spiritual auras and offers viewers a mystical, geometric language.
Lappi wants to take viewers out of their visual comfort zone. She would like to rouse a sense of bewilderment, uncertainty, and mystery by fabricating unexpected situations with shifting meanings, and opening minds for a new look at surroundings. Important themes in her work include historical memories, decay and destruction, and emotions such as loneliness and yearning.
Celine Azem before an artwork.
Finally, Metamorphosis serves as a metaphor for the human experience, reminding us of our resilience and capacity for transformation and our ability to rise from ashes. It underlines the magnificent beauty that emerges from life’s challenges, when men meet mountains. In addition to her Basilica Series and Cella, Lappi also introduces a collection of drawings. They offer a glimpse into her creative process and thinking.
In alignment with Art Dubai, a celebration of art and culture in the region, Tunisian artist Taher Jaoui and Lebanese artist Ihab Ahmad are also presenting their exhibition Symphony in Duality, curated by Celine Azem (Feb. 29 – Mar. 3), at Deep Studio&Gallery located in the heart of Al Quoz. Duality, Azem points out, exists in philosophy and science and prompts us to ponder the coexistence of opposing forces inside a unified whole.
Inspired by legendary collaborations like that between Basquiat and Warhol, Jaoui and Ahmad come together in friendship and creative exchange. Ahmad is renowned for dynamic Pop art and Jaoui is an abstract expressionist. The former’s practice is characterised by structure, graphic precision and well-defined boundaries, while Jaoui’s practice embraces chaos and spontaneity. Together, they present works that fuse these contrasting elements, enriching them with colour, depth, and emotion.
Each artist also offers a glimpse into their individual worlds. Jaoui’s artistic process is guided by intuition and spontaneous exploration, seamlessly blending painting and drawing, abstraction and representation. His compositions often incorporate semi-figurative elements and his defining characteristic is his fearless and dynamic use of colour and texture, achieved through various combinations of oil, enamel, pastels, acrylic, spray paint and charcoal.
The duality in his work emerges from the sharp contrast between his seeming impulsiveness and a measured and deep familiarity with his materials. It is a juxtaposition of instinctive spontaneity and informed precision! The artist attempts in his works – and achieves – a harmonious balance in the chaos of existence.
His works grace numerous private and public collections spanning Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the United States. Ahmad’s works are influenced by modernist masters like Klee, Miro, and Picasso. They explore vibrant colours and symbols, evoking a world of abundance and hope. The artist draws from diverse experiences, including Lebanon’s civil war to Cyprus and Dubai.
His creations combine joy and introspection, celebrating youthful memories. But within the work a duality emerges — the symbols and thick black lines in the crowded canvases hint at modern life’s sensory overload, where joy and confusion coexist. Ahmad has exhibited in Beirut, Miami, China, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, France and many other places.
“By immersing ourselves in this exhibition, we gain a deeper understanding of the inherent dualities in our lives — how happiness coexists with sadness, chaos finds balance, and the familiar meets the unknown — ultimately discovering a Symphony in Duality,” says Azem. Besides being Mara Firetti’s daughter, Azem is also a Director of Firetti Contemporary and an independent curator. “Symphony in Duality is my first show outside of Firetti Contemporary, along with a show in an institution I curated in Italy,” she notes.
The launch coincides with Al Quoz Arts Festival 2024, being held January 27-28. Butler’s artworks will present detailed contemporary representations of some of the landmarks of Dubai’s cityscape.
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Sara took to Instagram, where she shared a gamut of photographs along with a few clips from the shoot.
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