Thursday, 24 November 2016

Gu's Goo - Bananas Are Art!

Those who visited the Abu Dhabi Art may wonder if UAE is taking over the world's banana business. I was going bananas to find another title for this edition of this much anticipated annual art fair that brought amazing art to this part of the world. The venue was just about 20 minutes drive from my studio and home, and there was no way I could have let those bananas rot without once being seen around them with my camera too!

Abu Dhabi Art took place at Manarat AL Saadiyat from November 16-19. There were some brilliant art and lot of food for thought... including lot of Bananas of course!

Gu Dexin, an influential artist from Beijing, whose work consists of thousands of fresh bananas arranged on the floor in a precise rectangle, marked out by urns set on marble pedestals. Visitors were invited to take a banana, eat it, and throw the skin into one of the urns. On the third day of the event as anticipated - the bright yellow fruit turned into a mass of rotting organic rubbish... with onlookers like fruit flies still all over the 'art work' taking their selfies. Gu's goo! Never mind what I call it. Gu impresses anyone who takes a peep at the statement printed and presented near the work (and I have got it below - don't forget to read it). Dexin has achieved global acclaim for his use of perishable materials as a statement about his pessimistic view of humanity. He does not title any of his pieces, which is a reflection of their ephemeral nature but the banana installation is called 'Gateway'. This presentation is curated by Alexandra Munroe, a prominent curator of Asian art and senior adviser of global arts at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

Scroll down to see the rest of the show... pictures may tell a million words but then don't skip the captions... they are often more than what may spring out of our head as thought bubbles:

Geitani Bassam_Unfold_Mixed Media on Canvas. Profoundly inflected by specific theoretical endeavors, Bassam Geinati's work, spanning across different symbolic orders and layers of representation, is an on-going investigation of materiality and surface. The is artist is born and based in Beirut. Studied art and lived in Paris for 14 years.
Born in Beijing in 1961, Gu Dexin is one of the pioneering presences of the generation that began making contemporary art during the 1980s. His early paintings, watercolors, and embroideries open up fantastic, dystopian worlds of creatures vaguely human, while his conceptual installations involving raw meat and rotting fruit added a new sense of the visceral to an otherwise analytical and symbolic conversation. In 1989, he was among the three Chinese artists to show in “Magiciens de la Terre” at the Pompidou, the first time art from contemporary China had been inserted into a global context. In 2009, frustrated with the art world around him, Gu decided to quit art entirely. Drawn entirely from private collections, and including over eighty works from the Guy and Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection, this exhibition is the first comprehensive attempt to make sense of the multiple strands in Gu’s daring, original, and sophisticated practice.
This is the art note found next to the installation that made people go bananas at the Abu Dhabi Art's 2016 edition.
This one here probably is no art installation (as there was no note beside it) but caught my attention and took me back to my mother's water garden back home full of water lilies. If it is actually an art work... I really would like to know more. 
Jean Dubuffet_La lande joyeuse. Jean Dubuffet, a French painter, printmaker, and sculptor disliked authority from a very early age. He left home at 17, failed to complete his art education, and wavered for many years between painting and working in his father's wine business. He would later be a successful propagandist, gaining notoriety for his attacks on conformism and mainstream culture, which he described as "asphyxiating." He was attracted to the art of children and the mentally ill, and did much to promote their work, collecting it and promulgating the notion of Art Brut. His early work was influenced by that of outsiders, but it was also shaped by the interests in materiality that preoccupied many post-war French artists associated with the Art Informel movement. In the early 1960s, he developed a radically new, graphic style, which he called "Hourloupe," and would deploy it on many important public commissions, but he remains best known for the thick textured and gritty surfaces of his pictures from the 1940s and '50s.
"Personally, I believe very much in values of savagery; I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness."
- Jean Dubuffet
Sahand Hesamiyan_Gole Ayne_Steel, Mirror Stainless Steel, and Paint. This work reminded me of Bharti Kher's broken mirrors. Sahand Hesamiyan, born in 1977 in Tehran, holds a Bachelor of Sculpture from the Tehran University and currently lives and works in Tehran.

Gordon Cheung_Here Be Dragons_Financial newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, sand and pumice on canvas and sail cloth. Do check the video below to see the finesse in 3D.
Seulgi Lee_U: It is drker under the lamp = Cannot see things which are too close_KOrean silk, cotton, collaboration with Nubi, Korean quilt maker Sung-Yeon Cho.
About U in the artists words. "In this continuity, I am working on a collection of blankets which take some proverbs as patterns. My interest goes toward using the oral culture to make something useful as humanity always did. So it’s going to be the blankets « telling » a story. In Korea, many proverbs are calling to pictures. I interpret them as diagram becoming a composition of colors on quilted blankets. This particular technique, one can find at bedding shops as old-fashioned blanket in Korea. The colors are related to the cosmology in Chinese philosophy. I like this idea that the future sleeper, once under this blanket, can be protected. Otherwise people say that sleeping with the head toward one direction is good... 
This sewing technique is originally hand made and can be found around the world, like for example with Amish Quilt, or boutis provençal and piqué marseillais in the south of France. 
Some diagrams therefore are coming from the following proverbs by order," says Lee. 

This mandala carpet is inspired from patterns in the nature and made by Emirati artist and curator Sheikha Wafa Bint Hasher Al Maktoum. Read here more about how she uses patterns from nature to complete her work.  The artist was recently presented with the prestigious Dayawati Modi Award for Art Culture & Education for her outstanding contribution to promoting during Arts for India event held at BAFTA – 195 Piccadilly London on 19th October, 2016. The event was sponsored by the British Film Institute, London, Pinewood Studios, London and the Columbia University School of the Arts, New York. She is the the first recipient of this coveted trophy in the entire Middle East that has previously been handed to the likes of Mother Teresa, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan and Hollywood Film Actress Goldie Hawn.
Thought this is a very cool recycled chair using the palm!
Sudarshan Shetty_Untitled_Teak Wood. Born in 1961 in Mangalore, India, Sudarshan Shetty lives and works in Mumbai. Shetty initially trained as a painter, later turning to sculpture and installations which now account for all of his output. A conceptual artist, he is renowned for his enigmatic and often mechanised sculptural installations. His hybrid constructions question the fusion of Indian and Western traditions as well as exploring domestic concerns and the notion of movement.
Cesar_Expansion Blue_Resine polyester stratifie et laque/Laminated and lacquered Polyurethane 158x120x18cm. Art auction website artvalue, prices an approximate 30,000-40,000 euros. A founding member of the Nouveaux Réalistes, César (1921-1998) was renowned in Europe for his outlandish sculptures using unorthodox materials (ranging from industrial rubbish to high-tech resins), innovative forms and novel processes. Born César Baldaccini to Italian immigrants in Marseille, the artist is popularly known in France for several iconic works, including a number of monumental public sculptures in Paris. The 40-foot-tall Le Pouce (Thumb), 1965, permanently installed at La Défense, is a bronze blowup of the artist's thumb. Over the years he produced versions of this work in a wide variety of materials and sizes, make several popular examples. 
Gilles Barbeir_Eternity_Mixed Media. This work reminds one of tarring and feathering - a form of public humiliation used to enforce unofficial justice or revenge. It was used in feudal Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, as well as the early American frontier, mostly as a type of mob vengeance.  The aim was to inflict enough pain and humiliation on a person to make him either conform his behavior to the mob's demands or be driven from town.  The image of the tarred-and-feathered outlaw remains a metaphor for public humiliation. Barbier’s works reflect on the darker and more difficult themes of ageing and the collapse of dreams and ideals. 
Louay Kayyali_The Match Seller_Oil. Kayyali was a Syrian modern artist who graduated from Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, he is known in portrait, nature & flower paintings. This work is oil on masonite chip board and was produced in 1974. His psychological state is often linked to his interest in subjects related to the struggle of the common man. He suffered from depression and died in 1978 from burns incurred from his bed catching fire, reportedly from a cigarette.
Rakan Dabdoub_Architectural figure_Oil on board. Rakan Dabdoub is an Iraqi visual artist who was born in 1930. Several works by the artist have been sold at auction, including 'Untitled' sold at Christie's Dubai 'Modern & Contemporary Arab, Iranian & Turkish Art' in 2014 for $21,250. 

Muntean/Rosenblum_Untitled (They have a curios way...)_Black and White Crayon, Acrylic on Canvas_268x387cm. Muntean and Rosenblum (Markus Muntean; born 1962 in Graz, Austria and Adi Rosenblum; born 1962 in Haifa, Israel) are artists based in Vienna and London. They have been collaborating since 1992. They work in a variety of media, but their most characteristic work involves painted formal compositions, with comic book style captions, of teenage models from fashion magazines. The Guardian critic Jonathan Jones described the effect as "Andy Warhol meets Jacques-Louis David". The pictures of Muntean/Rosenblum are characterized by references to the way we perceive things today, which is influenced by the media, advertising, film and popular culture. These belong to a lifestyle-oriented society where youth is a marketable commodity and “being young” has become an instrument of permanent self-control. The magazines cooperate with specialists in affective image production, appropriating forms that used to stand for protest, utopia and delimitation, as well as allegorical themes and subjects from art history.
Muntean/Rosenblum_Untitled (How simply they seemed...) Oil on Canvas. The artist duo were represented by Galeria Horrach Moya from Spain.
Kim Duck-Yong_The Book - The moment of meditation_Mixed media on wood (mother of pearl).

Zeinab Al Hashemi_Dubai Series II_Digital Scenography. This art work brought to Abu Dhabi by Dubai's Cudro Fine Art gallery reminded me of the recent Dr Strange movie. Strange!
Tian Wei_Tobe - or not to be, ed. of 8_Stainless steel. Tian Wei was born in Xi’an, the first imperial capital of China, and original starting point of the Silk Road, which played a seminal role in linking East and West together in a complex network of trade and reciprocal exchange. Tian Wei left China for Hawaii, in 1986, to pursue a career in the arts. Upon completing his MFA in Hawaii, 1990, he subsequently settled in California. After years of travelling back and forth between America and China, he has been based in Beijing since 2011.  Both theoretically and formally, Tian Wei’s work constructs a bridge between things that appear as dyadic opposites, binary poles or complementary pairs. This perspective of Yin and Yang is deeply embedded in Chinese thinking, and the artist’s frequent reference to Classic texts such as the I Ching (The Book of Changes) and Tao Te Ching appear as quotations in minute script patterning the background upon which larger semi-abstract cursive shapes are drawn. What fascinates me most is that there can always be a switching – perhaps even a continuity - between both sides.’ Tian Wei’s artistic vision is not one that divides or separates the East from the West but one that integrates both, and for this reason it is both timely – and timeless.
Marc Quinn_The Eye of History - Desert Perspective_Oil on canvas_200cm diameter. British artist Marc Quinn's works deals with art and science, the human body and the perception of beauty. His series of Irises offering different perspectives (Desert, America etc).

Henry Matisse_Tete_Pen and ink on paper

Henri Matisse_Femme a la voilette (Woman in veil)_Pen and ink on paper
Henri Matisse_Femme a l ombrelle (Woman in umbrella)_Oil on canvas

Edgar Degas_Le ballet (The ballet)_Oil on panel

Anish Kapoor's works were a part of Galleria Continua
There are plenty more images in my camera and artists I would have loved to mention here, but...

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Thank you for reading and staying amused! :)

PS: Organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), this annual art fair takes place under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. It is UAE capital’s flagship annual art event. This time was its eighth edition and feature works of artists from 20 countries via industry representation through participating 40 galleries.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Istanbul: A Museum of Innocence

If you are from Istanbul what do they call you? *Istanbulli? But really found nobody close to being a bully in this friendly ancient city! This *word was stuck in my head since I read about an Istanbulli protagonist in a novel on love, loss and recreation of a lover's paradise built around objects that are mere memories of an innocent time. Istanbul is simply a museum in itself - an innocent witness to its past, present and future as I type this blog. Its mysterious streets may dot many museums but simply being there is no less than witnessing history and geography from a totally different perspective.

Just a few days ago, I was living next door to a unique venue called the Museum of Innocence in Çemberlitaş situated in the heart of Istanbul. If you love to find that special sweet spot between novels and travel to help bring real life places alive through the books you read, this is one museum you should not miss. More than the tragedies in the novel, by the same name, on which the actual museum is based on, my personal tragedy was missing this venue. Blame it on tired legs after 16000+ innocent steps each day in the city. I simply did not visit the museum despite crossing its door at least a few days times every day... keeping it for later sometime. Just like how we miss to take a closer look at something that is near us because our eyes are fixed far away! I missed it. Today's news reports the London premier of the film based on this museum/book. The film is named Innocence of Memories.

In The Museum of Innocence, his first novel since winning the Nobel prize, Orhan Pamuk strolls into this minefield with serene confidence, his own enterprise courting the same unease as that of his protagonist, Kemal Basmaci. Pamuk’s this novel is one of Turkey’s most famous ones. It is set in Istanbul – mainly in the 1970s – and tells the story of one man’s obsessive love for his distant relation Füsun. Over time this businessman, Kemal, who is also a wealthy Istanbulli playboy, spends a decade besieging his beautiful young cousin and then, after certain tragic events, devotes the rest of his life to creating a museum in her memory, stocking it with objects connected to his relationship with Füsun – such as her hair clips, cigarette butts and dirty coffee cups. These objects become a ‘museum’ to his obsession. Not just a love story, the novel is seen as a glimpse into the lives of Istanbul’s wealthy classes and the dilemma they faced in balancing their traditional values with the increasingly attractive Western culture of the time. It addresses issues of sexuality, gender, modernisation and religion, while whipping us along  the streets of Istanbul in vintage American cars and taking us on ferry journeys up the Bosphorus. But Pamuk has gone a giant step further than most novelists. Several years after writing the novel, he has built a real life Museum of Innocence in the part of Istanbul where Füsun’s parents have their home, and where Kemal spends a lot of time hoping to catch a few moments with his love (and stealing the odd tea cup for his collection).

The museum allows free entry to those who bring a copy of the book. A ticket placed in the 83rd chapter of the book will be stamped before ushering the reader in.
More than a love story cum travelogue, Pamuk’s novel is partly an exercise in cultural fetishism, as, after rejection, the lovelorn Kemal meticulously collects every scrap connected with Fusun, however trivial they may seem to fit a museum! For instance objects like panties, nutcrackers, and other trifles recovered from their moments together. I know this sounds creepy to many of us who may have also experienced real-life stalking but the novelist's perspective is different. Hence worth a mention.

British film maker Grant Gee's film is based on the actual museum that Pamuk opened as a real-world counterpart to the fictional one that Kemal creates; a double-meta construction that is only accentuated by the film casually referring to Fusun and Kemal as corporeal figures and Pamuk’s positioning of himself as a fictional character in a key scene in his novel. Pamuk’s habits as a flaneur of the Istanbul streets, and his inclination to see the city as a repository of collective memory, both individual and cultural, will surely give Gee’s film a kick into the most rarefied of intellectual spheres.

Grant Gee's film gained much acclaimed following its Venice premier in September. I hope to catch the movie when it reaches cinemas in the UAE!

More from the art scene in Istanbul

If you are in Istanbul right now try and catch Banksy's art here at Karakoy. It is showing until February 14, 2016.

If your visit is scheduled in February or March this year don't miss the !f. No ifs and buts about this one! The line up for the 15th !f İstanbul International Independent festival was announced at a press event at the Istiklal Caddessi. A total of 112 titles from 40 countries will hit cinema screens in three Turkish cities at this year's  Film Festival, from late February to early March in İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir. The Turkish big screen debuts of some of the year's most hotly anticipated indies will take place at the festival, whose theme for 2016 is “!f İstanbul unites!”, organizers announced at the press conference on Thursday.

This venue on the right hosts !F annually

Snow settles between the cobblestone pavements from Taksim square to Istiklal Cadessi... there at the far end you can see the poster of a much talked about and recent Turkish film Ertuğrul 1890 
International creative collaboration: Here is a closer look at the poster. The first film to be co-produced by Turkish and Japanese directors, ‘Ertuğrul 1890' reveals the roots of a friendship between two nations, and premiered in Istanbul on Thursday.
Also please visit the Blue Mosque, Aya Sophia, taste the Turkish Coffee as well as tea (varieties of it), shop for artefacts at the Arasta Bazaar and spices at Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district (the most famous covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar)... pictures below are what I caught in my camera while strolling there this week:

Turkish coffee tastes even better when sipped while watching the Marmara sea from one of the street cafes/restaurants that offer a panoramic view of the whole place!

Stroll along the tram ways and find treasure troves -  magnificence of the ottoman/hellenistic eras on the right and related trivia in form of souvenirs on the left that can be taken home in exchange of liras
Blood red carnations at Sultan Ahmet's Hippodrome signify the deadly event that happened here a few days ago due to a mindless terror-probed activity that killed 10 tourists as a suicide bomber blew himself up in the name of God! or Syria or just something else we may never know fully!

Amazing souq nestled between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya, offers Ikat silks from central asia, Kilims and other expensive artefacts you may like to browse/buy

A shop's window at Arasta Bazaar

Arasta bazaar has fewer shoppers/tourists during winter mornings
Hagia Sophia pronounced as Aya Sofya - once a cathedral, later a mosque, now a museum... houses brilliant ancient art, relics of two religions, indecipherable scribbles in viking script by guards on duty at the upper gallery, and plenty of friendly cats
Inside Aya Sofya you feel tinier than you are... no matter how tiny you may already be! Soak in all that is still there to marvel in the form of art and culture from a bygone era
Topkapi palace treasury has golf-ball sized emeralds decorating the Topkapi dagger among invaluable other material wealth that the emperor who lived here collected from around the world. The palace also houses some important Islamic religious material that includes some organic remains of holy relevance.
Topkapi display: If you look at the ancient Islamic art patterns closely you will witness that the artists at work were hugely inspired by the shapes of local birds, flowers, fruits... and must have spent long-hours decoratively arranging the forms in aesthetically pleasing geometrical/symmetrical patterns.
Aya Sofya: The mosaic from Constantinople's time started revealing when the Ottoman plastering started withering off with time. Some historians say that the Ottomans could never really fully demolish/cover the Roman cathedral decorative art. Whatever the story is/was... it is worth a look. Simply magnificent, if you ask me. And reminds one of the art in Vatican, Florence and else were in ancient Italy.
Aya Sofya: Imagine if minutes of a meeting where inscribed in stone like this! This is precisely that.
Aya Sofya: A huge marble container from the 5th century used to store/serve grape juice during special occasions.
To taste the true flavours of Istanbul one has to savour its equally unique food too. That will be featured in another blog soon!

Teşekkür ederim! (Thank you!)

This story was published in Gulf News on March 2, 2016
To read it online click here:
PS: Did you know that Istanbul had very unique vending machines... one where you can pop a few liras and buy a new novel? Another one where you can recycle used bottles in exchange for dog food!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Art in the Capital

It was a busy weekend. Two venues came alive in the capital - Art Abu Dhabi opened at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Wednesday and Warehouse 421, the new art district by the waters at Mina Zayed, previewed on Thursday night.

After closely looking at all artists living, born and/or gone from the UAE... I realise I am a fan of two true gems of visual art who currently nourish the local scene by their pure ceative opulence. I feel fortunate to have met both of them during my life here! The two amazing artists am speaking of are both born and raised in the UAE - hugely popular Abdul Qader Al Rais and soon-to-be-very-popular-mind-you Saif Mhaisen. Al Rais popular for his monumental art works in palaces and distinguished public spaces [but I love his very vibrant recent abstract works more... scroll down to see!] and Saif for his super-real portraits [down below].

Saif's is one of the chosen few artists for the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship - a part of the Warehouse 421 project. Saif will soon be on a scholarship MFA programme in the States and is spoilt for choice - making up his mind whether Rhodes will be his new home. Lucky!! And well deserved!

The fellowship gives much importance to the art process. The process was walked through by another artist who is also a part of this programme - talented and warm-hearted Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi - who carefully collects nostalgia from his childhood in Al Ain. "Everything is in our childhood. The way we grew up plays all the part into all our expressions. And of course art," says Shamsi. His collected/found objects on display shows how art around him changed with time. "The individuality of the local convenience shop names/sign boards have disappeared with the advent of black and green 'Baqala' neon signage, as per municipality's uniformity/standardising norms," laments the artist.

The best parts of this venue are that it is by the beautiful waters of Mina and is open until 11pm... and you can take your children too! It is true that it reminds one of D3 in Dubai also Al Serkal Avenue a bit! Is it fashionable to reuse containers to showcase art? It doesn't quiet fancy me. May be because am claustrophobic. Art meant to be 'out of the box' must not ideally be locked in, if you ask me. Btw I spoke to one of the participants who was dragging an air cooler into one container-converted-gallery here just before closing, and he said "yeah! we have to keep the fan on all night - it is wood and delicate art - cannot leave it to nature". Of course!
Naqsh Collective showcases unique inlay art forms that can make your interiors sophisticated and artsy at the same time! They are showing at the new art space Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi.
Naqsh explores language of embroidery, unifying this important element of Jordanian culture with minimal yet functional structures. Naqsh design house also supports the women’s community within the Palestinian refugee camps in Amman, Jordan.

 Jordanian artists Nisreen Abu Dail & Nermeen Abu Dail of Naqsh

Lot of people think that steel mountain behind me is Louvre! Hell no! It is the UAE Pavilion under construction... just opposite Manarat Al Saadiyat
You CAN make art from an empty can... just put a wig on it and tada! This was found in this edition of Art Abu Dhabi
This recycled piece of art stole my heart! The Japanese art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is all about turning ugly breaks into beautiful fixes. This artist has welded ceramic pieces from the trash using 24ct gold... to perhaps silently say that broken is better than new! And there far behind, can you see Subodh Gupta's 'Grapes from Heaven'?

Loving the works of Saif Mhaisen... Here the artist poses next to his alter ego/oil self at Warehouse 421 on its opening night on Thursday.
Boy looks at 'Contemporary Terracotta warriors' by Beijing-based Yue Minjun at Manarat Al Saadiyat. By his signature - facial expression frozen in a wide-toothed laughter - Yue Minjun uses humour to express a turbulent period in modern China. In his words - ‘I paint people laughing, whether it is a big laugh, a restrained laugh, a crazy-laugh, a near-death laugh or simply laughter about our society: laughter can be about anything. Laughter is a moment when our mind refuses to reason. When we are puzzled by certain things, our mind simply doesn’t want to struggle, or perhaps we don’t know how to think, therefore we just want to forget it. in Chinese tradition you can’t say things directly. You have to show something else for the  real meaning. I wanted to show a happy smile and show that behind it is something sad,  and even dangerous.'

This in the name of fine art may look simple or silly but don't underestimate Ai Weiwei please! His childlike vandalism of ancient pots contains a potent political message. In 1994, the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei decorated a Han Dynasty urn with the red Coca-Cola logo; the following year he had himself photographed dropping and smashing another.  Coloured Vases (2009-10), which feature in the show, continue in the same spirit of protestation.

"The particles are in perpetual movement. . . They remind me of the Lebanese people who are constantly on the move," says Hanibal Srouji, who's work Healing Bands was displayed at Art Abu Dhabi 2015

Indian-British sculptor Anish Kapoor's signature bold and far from being detailed and minimalistic piece of work from this edition of Art Abu Dhabi

Abdul Qader Al Rais' work on display at Art Abu Dhabi 2015
Shukran by Iranian artist Farhard Moshiri... is a a large artwork with knives stabbed into plaster to read 'shukran', that means 'thank you' in Arabic. The artist exposes the hypocrisy of world politics where people say thank you with a smile and actually go behind your back and stab! Ouch!

Closeup - Ouch! again.

Like every story, art has three sides. The side you see, the side you don't see and the bluvian side [of course!] :)