Homage without an Homage

Julius Baer, Art Dubai
2017
Hussain Sharif, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Nujoom Al Ghanem, Ebtisam AbdulAziz, Layla Juma, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Jumairy, Vivek Vilasini, Cristiana de Marchi, Salwa Zeidan, Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh & Hesam Rahmanian

Homage without an Homage
by Cristiana de Marchi

The exhibition showcases works by artists from different generations who have been mentored, influenced or inspired by Hassan Sharif’s practice and teaching.
Featuring the core group of UAE conceptual artists Hussain Sharif, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, and Mohammed Kazem, the show also includes artist, writer and filmmaker Nujoom Al Ghanem, Emirati artists Ebtisam AbdulAziz, Layla Juma, Shaikha Al Mazrou and Jumairy, along with international artists and friends Vivek Vilasini, Cristiana de Marchi, Salwa Zeidan, Ramin e Rokni Haerizadeh & Hesam Rahmanian.
The exhibition is accompanied by a program of performances and video screenings as well as by a series of talks addressing various aspects of Hassan Sharif’s practice, career and legacy.

Is Old Gold?

DUCTAC
2017
Hassan Sharif, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Taqwa Al Naqbi, Hussain Sharif, Alaa Edriss, Alia Lootah, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Maitha Abdalla, Amal Al Khaja, Abdullah Al Saadi, Fatima Albudoor, Hind Mezaina, Mohammed Kazem, Jumairy, Moza Almatrooshi

Is Old Gold?
by Cristiana de Marchi

One of the first significant exhibition displaying the works of Emirati artists within a museum setting, if not the most significant one to date, was “5 UAE”, curated by Annette Lagler at the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst (Ludwig Forum for International Art) in Aachen in 2002.
This exhibition, which actually coined the expression “5 UAE” to internationally refer to and indicate the avant-garde group composed by Hassan Sharif, Hussein Sharif, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdullah Al Saadi, and Mohammed Kazem, has been a landmark in defining the origin of a movement whose consequences have been enormous for the creation of an artistic platform in the United Arab Emirates.
There is a diffused misconception about the beginning of the contemporary artistic scene in the UAE, which de facto coincided with the conceptual and experimental direction marked by the influential intervention of Hassan Sharif. In fact, in 1980 Sharif co-founded the Emirates Fine Arts Society and in 1984-1985 actively operated within the Al Marjiah Art Atelier, a workshop also based in Sharjah, attended by artists, poets and intellectuals whose role will be essential to the creation and development of a precocious interest and conscience for cultural themes and movements of international resonance.
The formation of a local contemporary art scene and the solicitation for an awareness about subjects of cultural relevance has been one of the most significant goals pursued by Hassan Sharif and later by his protégé Mohammed Kazem, who took over the teaching mission in 1999.
Regardless of its significance, the history of the beginnings of the UAE contemporary art scene, with all its highly intellectual declinations, has not been properly told nor has been sufficiently echoed by the growing interest recently demonstrated by both the local and the international professionals visiting, exploring and often exploiting the artistic resources available in the Emirates.
The increasing attention dedicated to the still new phenomenon of the art from the UAE and by extension from the Gulf demands a retrospective look at the early days, those characterized by the efforts of a small group of strong-minded, motivated and passionately optimistic artists and intellectuals who have firmly believed in their own capacity and talent as well as in the potential of education as a tool for sustaining and nurturing the cultural development of their society.

As a matter of fact, the younger generations of Emirati art practitioners show a diffused detachment from the pioneering generations of their predecessors. The responsibilities for this disconnect are multiple and can be attributed to institutional policies privileging narratives that better comply with political agendas, as well as to a radical change in the educational models, where the academia has replaced the atelier-like experience and knowledge transmission that has characterized a generation of self-taught artists.

Spaces in between are by definition metaphors of a passage, a fracture, an interruption that needs to be explored if not necessarily filled.
Moving beyond a celebratory approach, that can more than often seal the disconnect and relegate a movement or phenomenon to the realm of the past, a genuinely open exploration of this gap is here activated by exposing 10 young Emirati artists to the task of investigating, on an informed basis, their relation to the teaching and experience of the “5 UAE”. If providing information has been perceived as a preliminary, indispensable condition from which a conversation could originate, conversations not necessarily lead to understanding, sharing, or iterated frequentations.

History (of art) is filled with episodes of continuity and breakings, where moving on from certain premises could look more consequential than cocooning in the comfortable continuity of the past. Societies, just like art movements, can reflect certain implicit needs, and even make them explicit by means of representation.
But is this past so comfortable? Or does it imply a questioning that is better removed than addressed?

The collaborative nature that characterized the context where a small group of artists did support and sustain each other’s practice besides actively contributing to the birth and development of a diffused social interest and attention for the contemporary art and cultural disciplines, is here re-actualized and reinterpreted in an ideal, although somehow impossible, “mentorship” and transmission of knowledge and experience between the first and the last – up to now – generation of professional, committed Emirati artists.
Yet, is a conversation between these two generations of UAE visual artists undeniably separated by a gap still possible? If no, why? And if yes, how?

link to website

The Poetics of Absence

1x1 art gallery
2017

The poetics of absence: a nostalgic pandemic
By Cristiana de Marchi


“(The) lament for a life left behind in a land that will forever be memory and myth, and the whispered elegy that is the prayer of a poet possessed with the promise of a perfect land always yearned for, never gained.” (Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Ancient Earth)


Absence is a topos of literary relevance, based on the roots of European culture and civilisation. The theme of travel is strictly connected to that of separation, of disruption and of the inevitability of making the farewells. The reverse of these feelings is of course the attempt to neutralize or even annihilate the evidence of severance through a series of stratagems, which are methods that voyagers, travellers, and migrants have perfected over the millennial history of humanity or, individually, during the course of one’s experience.
Photography has a privileged position among the expedients recently adopted to minimize the effects of nostalgia, and as absurd as it might seem, also in order to increase those same effects.
We carry images in notebooks, wallets and suitcases (and in the last decades in telephones, computer and other electronic devices) in order to have a physical, “objective” reminder of places and individuals of high emotional relevance, whose memory we cannot allow to fade or dissolve. Documentarism, photographic archives and artistic photography seem to share a deep interest in the collection of visual relics, although their treatment dramatically changes moving on a line that starts with preservation and reaches re-elaboration and interpretation.

tribe magazine
1x1 gallery

U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration. A Public Privacy

Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.
2015

Curated with Mohammed Kazem

U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration
A Public Privacy

Bringing together new works by a group of emerging Emirati, locally based and GCC artists, A Public Privacy will be the inaugural exhibition launching U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration, a new platform promoted and under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan.
U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration is an open format platform focusing on - and aiming to promote - the youngest generation of Emirati, UAE based and GCC artistic talents. A new regular presence on the UAE visual art scene, U.A.E. Unlimited Arab Exploration is inspired by a wish to encourage the youngest generations of local visual art practitioners. The platform aims to support artists’ national and international exposure to art professionals, as well as offering them opportunities for a wider representation and promotion at an early stage in their careers.
This support is conceived in terms of granting a regular exhibitive and curated platform to coincide with the main events characterizing and defining the Spring art season in the United Arab Emirates, as well as of promoting young practitioners by assisting them in the creation and production of new works and projects.
The inaugural exhibition, A Public Privacy, addresses issues of the artists’ self-positioning in the public arena, and of the mediation between the private sphere that is dominated by traditional values – both on an individual and a collective scale - and the public context.

Featuring Emirati artists Shamma Al-Amri, Hamad Al Falasi, Shaikha Al Mazrou, and Jumairy; Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri and Indian/UAE based artist Vikram Divecha, the exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue designed by Brusselssprout and enriched by essays and contributions by local and international scholars.

gulf news
the national
art in the city

MinD/Body

NYU Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
2013

MinD/Body
Body art and performance in the Gulf area

Body Art without body might be a pure paradox. Instead it is worth a thought in a region where the depiction of the body is culturally banished.
Art in the UAE has experienced an extraordinary growth in the past decade, this comes without saying and it has been said far too often. But this is just the result of a process, and not necessarily of a cultural one being rather a marketing promotion on a worldwide scale. And yet a few artists have been active here since the early 70s. Contemporary art at its very beginning has gone through experimentation, especially with regard to those media and concepts, which were profoundly stranger to the local culture.
During the early 80s’ artist Hassan Sharif has used his body in a significant series of performances and experiments which have been developed in tight connection with the European, and especially the London, art scene and then kept in a drawer for decades. In this region, the use of the body was at that stage “premature”, and still it is underrepresented. The season of physically engaging gatherings has somehow gone by and the actual circuit of contemporary art has come out as “clinical” as a dentist’s waiting room.
Nevertheless a restricted group of artists and intellectuals have tried to go close to different forms of expression and to go beyond restrictions. After Hassan Sharif, his “protégé” Mohammed Kazem has explored reality through his body and overtly disclosed his research in a restricted and yet consistent series of works dating back to the mid 90s. These experiments being the exception, the rule in the Gulf area has been widely respected and substantially nothing definable as Body Art has been produced.
Body Art (as well as Performance) does undeniably offer the advantage of the matière première, the body of the artist him/herself most often. And yet it needs, in its performative practice and nature, a public. The public is indeed the authentic missing link in the UAE Body Art experiments related experiences and this has significantly influenced the following steps of the research in this field.
Where is the body, then? To what stage and in which scenario has the body been represented in the last 25 years? These are some of the questions introduced by this show, displaying artists from the Gulf who mainly use video and photography. Manal Al Dowayan (1973), Ebtisam AbdulAziz (1975), Nuha Asad (1983), Waheeda Al Malullah (1982), Abdulnasser Gharem (1973) are some of the artists using their own or others’ body in their works. They are mainly women artists, in a limbo area where the expressive urge still compromises with strong social and cultural links and limitations. The same as Tarek Al-Ghoussein (1962) –who displays his body in response to social or political questions– or Anas Al-Shaikh (1968), almost all the works produced in this part of the world and implying the use of the body try to avoid open violations of the conventions.
Self-censorship is a quite delicate issue, constraining the creative process in its very processual phases; and yet allowing those who must face it to find ways to escape and still express their perspective. Therefore, investigating the role of the body in contemporary art from the Gulf is also a way to investigate the freedom of the artist, the creative as well as the exhibitive one.

NYU Abu Dhabi

MinD/Body

Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.
2013

MinD/Body
Body art and performance in the Gulf area
By Cristiana de Marchi

Body Art without body might be a pure paradox but it is worth a thought in a region where the depiction of the body is culturally banished.
Art in the UAE has experienced an extraordinary growth in the past decade, this goes without saying and it has been said far too often. But this is just the result of a process, and not necessarily of a cultural one, but rather marketing promotion on a worldwide scale. However, a few artists have been active here since the early 70s. Since its very beginning contemporary art has gone through experimentation, especially with regard to those media and concepts, which were unfamiliar to the local culture.
During the early 80s’ artist Hassan Sharif used his body in a significant series of performances and experiments which were developed in close connection with the European, and especially the London, art scene and then kept in a drawer for decades. In this region, the use of the body was at that stage “premature”, and still it is underrepresented. The season of physically engaging gatherings has somehow passed this region resulting in a contemporary art scene which is as “clinical” as a dentist’s waiting room.
Nevertheless a restricted group of artists and intellectuals have tried to experiment with different forms of expression and to go beyond restrictions. After Hassan Sharif, his “prote?ge?” Mohammed Kazem has explored reality through his body and disclosed his research in a restricted and yet consistent series of works dating back to the mid 90s. These experiments are the exception to the rule in the Gulf area where nothing else of significance definable as Body Art has been produced.
Body Art (as well as Performance) undeniably offers the advantage of the matie?re premie?re, most often the body of the artist him/herself. And yet it needs, in its performative practice and nature, a public. The public is indeed the authentic missing link in UAE Body Art experiments and this has significantly influenced the subsequent steps of research in this field.
This exhibition investigates the representation of the human body in contemporary art from this region over the past 25 years. It displays work by artists from the Gulf who mainly use video and photography. Manal Al Dowayan (1973), Ebtisam Abdulaziz (1975), Noor Al Bastaki (1985), Waheeda Al Malullah (1982) are some of the artists using their own or others’ bodies in their works. They are mainly female artists, in an area of limbo where the expressive urge still conflicts with strong social and cultural links and limitations. As with Tarek Al- Ghoussein (1962) who also displays his body in response to social or political questions, and Anas Al-Shaikh (1968), almost all the works produced in this part of the world imply the use of the body to try to avoid open violations of conventions.
Self-censorship is quite a delicate issue, constraining the creative process; and yet allowing those who must face it to find ways to escape it and still express their perspective. Therefore, investigating the role of the body in contemporary art from the Gulf is also a way to investigate the freedom of the artist, both the creative and the exhibitive.

universes in universe
The National
UAE today

Re-representation of a woman

Laboratoire d’Art, Beirut, Lebanon
2012
Caroline Kropff

Re-representation. Portraits of a woman
by Larissa Kolesnikova

Carolin Kropff’s creative practice is rooted in the pictorial traditions of painters such as Katz, Titian, and Goya. She graduated as a painter from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the Staedelschule Frankfurt am Main. In her work Kropff proves the most classical of all media - painting - to be the perfect tool to demonstrate the paradox of the creative process, where articulated thought or concept seeks to become an image. During this act the image tends to escape and the process itself becomes a walk between failure and success of realization. Her focus shifts between interest in the subject (object or a concept), analysis of the creative process, and tolerance of chance with emphasises on intuition. In her paintings Kropff demonstrates this process with pigment, which she sees as the primary building block in the process of materialization. Painting for Kropff is a materialised process, rather than achievement of a static image.
Her photo collages are a junction in between. Their cut surface is a shortcut in materialization process, montage of realities. The works included in the show are part of bigger body of work Kropff has been creating alongside her daily artistic practice over the past decade.

L'Agenda Culturel

Dropping Lines

Salwa Zeidan Gallery, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
2010

curated with Mohammed Kazem

Dropping Lines
Cristiana de Marchi

As a further step of the established collaboration between The Flying House and Salwa Zeidan Gallery the show “Dropping Lines” presents recent works from six artists of The Flying House, namely Abdul-Rahman Al Ma’aini, Layla Juma, Hassan Sharif, Hussain Sharif, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim and Mohammed Kazem. Being these artists oriented towards a wide range of different techniques, this exhibition presents paintings, prints, video, drawings and objects, thus selectively representing most of the expressive means of contemporary art.

Although individually recognizable and characterized, the artists on show have walked a long path together and do under certain circumstances and for some aspects echo each other, creating a series of ties and links which are then developed in their own autonomous way. For the art critic, trying to find resemblances and references in the work of “related” artists is always a tempting activity. Indeed, it is sometimes an intellectual challenge to discover and to reveal the influences an artist might have undergone. But there are threads which resist this kind of approach, since each and every artist has his/her own way of perceiving the context, the incentives and stimuli from the surrounding reality, thus ultimately creating profoundly diverse and individualized works starting with the very same situational context.

The works on show, carefully selected and displayed in a neat atmosphere allow the visitor to take a break, to reserve a moment to each and every piece, moving back and forth, looking for a glimpse of recognition and then enjoying loosing it.

salwa zeidan gallery

Vis Roboris

AB Gallery, Luzern, Switzerland
2010

curated with Mohammed Kazem

VIS ROBORIS
Cristiana de Marchi

“[…] Languages are usually based on a stronghold of rationality, especially dead or “unspoken” ones […]. Vis is an interesting Latin word, which has not all its forms and must borrow some of them from his synonymous Robur, roboris. Both meaning “strength”, with all the possible variations implied in this concept (ranging from moral to factual acceptation, and from the positive to the negative one), they complete each other; they support the other’s failure to express and thus to be authentically meaningful.
Strength can be a declination of coherence, and vice versa. Indeed, the relation between these two behaviours is quite tight and draws one’s attention on their analogies and their differences.
[…] The present exhibition shows a selection of contemporary works of art from a group of UAE artists whose experiences are highly connected and whose productions –regardless of their formal differences– are linkable on multiple layers of proximities.” (Vis Roboris, Catalogue of the exhibition, 11).

The main concept guiding the present show is related with the idea of "strength" as it comes out through the title. And the title in its etymological root brings the idea of the multiplicity of strength: there is not one way of being strong, there are several. Both these ideas of strength and multiplicity (sometimes duplicity) are very well represented by the works selected and on show.
Layla Juma’s "Form & Space" is a work based on an oppositional concept, where opposite elements justify their reciprocal existence. In addition, this work does illustrate a relevant segment of Layla's artistic poetics, spotlighting the way she positions herself as an artist.
The series "Man and Mountain" has been regarded as a critical group of paintings in Hassan Sharif's recent production. These six paintings are inextricably related to one another and they do reflect the way this internationally acclaimed artist works, how he does stick to an idea or a concept, how he explores it and develops it to its extreme possibilities. "Man and Mountain" is again questioning the duality of reality and it investigates the relationship between these two elements as magnetic poles, a balance of forces where the boundaries between confrontation and assimilation are thin, a space for encountering and meeting.
Besides this body of work is intrinsically linked to Hussain Sharif's "Cars" and, once exhibited together, these two works can exemplify and illustrate another concept the curators aim at highlighting, that is the multi-layered "interdependence" of these artists, who have grounded the contemporary art scene in the UAE. Analogously the works selected by the other artists on show (Abdul-Rahman Al Ma’aini, Moza Al Suwaidi, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim and Mohammed Kazem) enter these lines and while escaping “framings”, they reflect a certain way of making art which still requires a load of strength.


AB gallery
catalogue

Press Conference

1×1 art gallery, Dubai, U.A.E.
2009
Hassan Sharif

curated with Mohammed Kazem


Press Conference - Hassan Sharif

After a long and prolific backstage activity, 1x1 will have the pleasure and the honor of presenting the first solo show of Hassan Sharif, one of the most celebrated and internationally acclaimed UAE artists in Dubai, thus offering the public a unique and unprecedented occasion of enjoying a selection of Sharif’s works, both recent and historical.

The show, curated by Mohammed Kazem and Cristiana de Marchi from The Flying House, will display for the very first time a series of works realized in different media and reflecting the varied production of Hassan Sharif. Mainly identified with his objects –a huge selection of which is currently displayed at the Venice Biennale 2009– this powerful and tireless artist has being measuring himself for the last thirty years with both objects and semi-systems, the latter being almost unknown in UAE. In recent years, after a quite long interval, he has started painting again with strong energy and an ironical perspective, both distinctly perceptible in the works on show.

Born in Dubai, where he lives and works, Hassan Sharif received his Diploma in Fine Arts and Design from the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. A founder and member of the Emirates Fine Art Society, he has started as a caricaturist and columnist publishing in the 1970s hundreds of sketches and articles on local newspapers and magazines, an “educational” path completed by the publication of four books (New Art and Sharp Tools for Making Art, 1995; Concept of Art, 1997; Al Khamsa, 2003). Hassan Sharif has extensively participated in exhibitions, biennials and shows, in the UAE and abroad. His works have been widely collected by international museums and institutions apart from numerous private collections.

1x1 gallery

Re-Source

Elementa Gallery, Dubai, U.A.E.
2009

Curated with Mohammed Kazem

Feeling the freedom
Cristiana de Marchi
(from the exhibition catalogue)

Being free, and knowing that one is free, is not exactly the same condition. Perhaps, there is no other moment in life like youth when you can deeply feel, in your same fiber, this extraordinary self-consciousness. Then, sometimes later in life, you might experience it again, in a paler form, and certainly on a less extended reason of time.
The “source” of this feeling is one of a precious kind, one to be nurtured where it is still alive and strong enough to be authentically productive. Being too judgmental is perhaps the prerogative of adulthood, that long and often blinded interlude between youth and old age, when people act with self-confidence, but far too rarely following their own instinctual knowledge of where life is heading, their own, unique life, besides.

The title of this exhibition refers to two different concepts: first of all the concept of “source”, of origin, which is identifiable with the very idea of youth. Young artists are undeniably the flowing origin of tomorrow’s art scene, and they need to be encouraged in their path towards building their own artistic career. Each artist expresses him/herself in a personal way, both technically and conceptually, and all these approaches are equally worthy as long as they are authentic and they show the commitment of the artist to his/her work and mission. To keep doing what we love is a credit almost everyone deserves to gain, even though most people simply have to add this very voice to the debit they have with themselves. Encouraging the young artists in pursuing their artistic and creative inclination is therefore fundamental.
It isn’t an easy condition, the artist’s one, and not only because of the lack of support or approval might they undergo for a considerable time before they have the chance to enjoy some public recognition (being one among the few lucky ones who will eventually do it). The very condition of the artist is a complex one. This is why cultivating the young talents, while offering them the opportunity to express themselves as artists, and inviting them to create with a perspective is of an utmost importance, and intimately highly rewarding. We are all curious to know who will emerge, who will follow one’s passion all along a lifetime. And yet, we already know the creative energy will undoubtedly be their guiding passion, no matter how far will they go in their artistic career.

The prefix “re-”, which participates to the composition of this exhibition’s title, introduces the perception of repetition, repetition of an experience that is the creative one itself. Repetition is a controversial word, because it implies a philosophical approach to the action, where the action is repeated no matter how different the outcomes might be. We can accept the uniqueness of actions with reference to their results, thus accepting the idea that we can never obtain the same outcome even though we repeat in detail the process. Water in the river is never the same, but the act of flowing is not altered by the different composition of the content. The creative act can be compared to that river, where everything changes except the fact of flowing: the pressure can be different; the material brought by the water can change as well as the impulse; but not the energy, not the pushing strength that brings the water from the source to the open, flat sea.
We all repeat actions in our daily life and we mainly stick to a routine, just like circular thoughts so often come to our minds and it is proved that we do not use more than 2000 words average in our everyday spoken communications. And yet, repetition is by definition “a new manifestation of something”, which implies the idea of doing again, of showing again, without affecting the “originality” of the action that is repeated.

The second idea, which is deeply linked to the first one, is represented by the term “resource” and evokes the indispensable capacity and strength for finding one’s own artistic incisiveness, which is clearly free and absolutely individual for each and every artist here showcased. Resource can be referred to row material as well as to one’s individual force in following his/her own projects and purposes. Therefore it synthesizes the primary “medium” that each and every artist selects in order to shape his/her creative idea or vision.
Freedom is complete, and sometimes disorienting. Nevertheless, it is essential to keep it absolute, for the young artists to express themselves and find their own way, which cannot come easily but more probably tentatively… the composition of a path, a sequence of steps more than a traced line.

gulf news
universes in universe

The Flying House first group show

Mashreq Bank, Dubai, U.A.E.
2008
Hassan Sharif, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Layla Juma

Curated with Jos Clevers

Dall’avventura alla scienza. Storia e pratica di un percorso archeologico

Direction of Antiquities of Piedmont, Turin, Italy
2004

Momenti e luoghi del Mediterraneo. Archeologia in Iraq, Jerash, Beirut, Cartagine, Selinunte

Italian Ministry of Foreigner Affaires and Italian Ministry of Cultural Goods and Activities, Rome and Turin
2003

Archeologia urbana a Beirut : l’intervento italiano

Italian Embassy in Lebanon, Beirut, Lebanon
1999