The end of summer in the Emirates feels a bit like spring, at least for those with an eye towards the arts. The first green shoots emerged last week when Through the Lenses of Five Palestinians opened at the Courtyard Gallery in Dubai. The show provides a second chance to see a Palestinian photo exhibition that ran at Art Dubai last March. At the time, it was a relatively undersung strand to the fair, not helped by the fact that it showed a long way from the main exhibition space and in the open air, rarely a flattering environment for photographic work. So here's a welcome opportunity to revisit images from Jawad al Malhi, Rana Bishara, Ra'ouf Haj Yihya, Rula Halawani and Shuruq Harb, all either resident in Jerusalem or part of the Palestinian diaspora. The five artists are alike in as much as they work in a broadly symbolic and satirical vein.
Yihya, a teacher at the Birzait University in Jerusalem, has produced a series of pieces emphasising the hunger that besieged Gazans suffer: flatbread is packaged like medicine or stuffed into envelopes marked "express". Bishara, who works out of a studio in Tarshiha, has made a series of images based on the cactus, a Palestinian emblem for patience. In one, the spiny succulent is dipped in blood; in another, an hourglass is embedded in the plant's flesh. Subtle it isn't, but that's beside the point. There is a fine fury to this stuff that ought to shine through much more clearly at the Courtyard. Courtyard Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai, until September 30
Another early opener last week was the latest exhibition from the British-based
Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum at Dubai's The Third Line. The Moment of Alignment continues Begum's exploration of pristine colour and repetition. She was last seen at The Third Line in 2007 with a show called Colour Codes, a series of paintings and installations that played with garish stripes. The intervening couple of years seems to have led her to focus her energies: the recurring format in her new show is a row of box-section aluminium bars fixed to the wall in a rectangular pattern. Geometrical designs are spray-painted on each bar's edge so that, as the viewer moves, larger patterns drift into alignment. I spoke to Begum before the show opened, and she explained that her goal was to reproduce the moments of serendipitous harmony that one can experience when walking around a large city. "I love the order that you sometimes see in the city," she said. "As you walk along, in the corner of your eye, something will just come together. And it's that kind of experience that I guess I envisage in the work." Flânerie has inspired a lot of work over the past century or so, but little of it is as seductively neat as this. The Third Line, Al Quoz, Dubai, until October 1
Finally, this Tuesday sees the opening of an intriguing new photographic show by students and graduates of two institutions: the American University in Dubai and the
School of Visual Arts in New York. Basically Human: Conditional Identities/Conditional Spaces consists of a series of meditations on the nature of place and nationality by a multinational group of 27 artists. Some of those artists seem impressively cosmopolitan as individuals. Angelica Yassine, who juxtaposes images of the desert and the human body, claims both Lebanese and Filipino roots. Altamash Urooj, whose work "explores themes of growth, transformation and metamorphosis" appears to hail from both Pakistan and Venezuela. Who better to ask tricky questions about identity. But the most recognisable name on the line-up is the Saudi photographer Sami al Turki, one of the standouts from Adach's platform at the Venice Biennale. His work here sounds like it will build on the grainy documentary images of hitchhikers that showed in La Serenissima: expect scenes from a series of journeys "beginning with that of a man he encountered in Dubai's rough, industrial centre". It should be well worth seeing. Empty Quarter Gallery, DIFC Gate Village Building 2, Dubai, September 15 - October 3