Monday 22nd of July 2013, Sotheby’s Bond Street
Certainly global trade, influence and collaboration might typify the past fifteen years in future history books. ‘Adapt or die’ is another adage of both contemporary business and the art world. Artists clearly understand how revisionisms, creating palimpsests, appropriation and representation are common threads within the human experience.
Disrupting narratives and deconstruction mean there are no limits regarding interpretation. This is evident in the new exhibition of art from the United Arab Emirates hosted at Sotheby’s London. Perhaps this may not fit basic assumptions of this seemingly traditional auction house but even here you will find difference in this exciting show. Some may be unaware that Sotheby’s opened an Abu Dhabi office. Therefore it should come as no surprise their latest exhibition showcases 12 works by emerging artists from the UAE.
Robin Woodhead, Executive Vice President & Chairman of Sotheby’s stated the UAE ‘has distinguished itself as a growing force on the international scene…with one of the most ambitious cultural programmes.’ It is obvious the Arab world is constantly developing and this is a pertinent time for the UK to experience that transition first hand. His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said: ‘The visual arts has the power to transcend borders and boundaries. It ignites the imagination and encourages the pursuit of knowledge.’ Certainly, the artists participating in the ‘ThreeGenerations’ exhibition in Bond Street, reflect a spirit of innovation rooted in the desert landscapes of Al Dhafra [the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi]. Their creations are infused with the cultural heritage they have inherited. However, there is an urgency and revisionist aesthetic at work which brings excitement and a definite pushing of boundaries and expectation.
The Three Generations exhibition gives London the opportunity to see what is happening in the UAE and contemplate its past, present and future. What it does do is suggest the visual art sector is flourishing. Creative expression, drawing on tradition as well as breaking new ground thrives. These works are not an attempt at creating a narrative. What they do is showcase the extent of the creative expression evident in the UAE right now.
What is art? Mohammed Al Astad Al Hammadi for example explores what traditional Emirati society is based upon then takes these core elements and transforms them. This is achieved by prompting both an emotion and the notion of collective cultural memory. He uses organic processes juxtaposed with notions of value and ownership. His work Midnight, demonstrates the impact of nature as iron is buried alongside a canvas. It is left for a couple of weeks. The natural oxidisation processes create abstraction and so each canvas is unique. It is an amalgam of artistic intention and natural process. It explores the notion: what is art? The work also asks what is its own aesthetic value?
Al Hammadi does this while also offering commentaries and juxtapositions. What is the dynamic between death and energy, difference and decay? It is also tangible proof, if you like, that rust never sleeps.Najat Makki on the other hand has used her travels to offer another perspective and illustrate the clash between traditional notions of gender and contemporary international feminist perspectives. ‘Untitled’ uses colour to intensify the metaphor of the female experience rooted in tradition, expectation, belief and culture.
Although the UK may not have experienced the work of these artists they have an international reputation and represent an artistic aesthetic which began many years back. These artists are simply the next generation. This exhibition illustrates the tension between concealment and revelation, modernity and history, cutting edge and tradition which typifies this region of the world. Sumayyah Al Suwaidi’s work for example challenges expectation by digitally transforming the mundane and infusing an image with an emotion. She has been exhibiting since 2003 and winner of L’OFFICIEL Arab Women Award 2010 for best new talent, Emirates Woman Achievers Award 2011 and Emirates Woman of the Year 2011.All twelve artists represent a new aesthetic. Traditions are filtered through the experience of these practitioners who explore the role of the imagination which challenges perception. As artist Jalal Luqman says: “I wanted to present an Arabised version, digitally repainted”.
Artist Jalal Luqman explaining his artwork at the Sotheby’s event “Three Generations”.
The famous “Gioconda” of Leonardo da Vinci reinterpreted by one of the artists, Jalal Luqman, at “Three Generations” at Sotheby’s.
Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi’s 2011 work, “State of Mind”.
Karima Al Shomaly, ‘Emirati Burqa’ at the Three Generations, Sotheby’s.
“Three Generations” Sotheby’s London 23 July – 9 August 2013
Three Generations” Press Preview at Sotheby’s London!