x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

An eye for emerging artists

The gallery Carbon 12 has made emerging artists one of its focal points.

Florian Hafele's untitled acrylic and paint sculpture is part of the exhibit.
Florian Hafele's untitled acrylic and paint sculpture is part of the exhibit.

When Carbon 12 opened last November in a modern, windowless space at the foot of Marina View Tower in Dubai, it was with the intention of showing work by both established and emerging artists. Seven Positions, which opens tomorrow, will feature more than 30 works by a host of young talent, including Florian Hafele, Mathias Garnitschnig, Farzan Sadjadi, Omid Massoumi, Philip Mueller, Alessa Esteban and Bernhard Garnicnig.

"Keep in mind there are millions of artists worldwide," says the gallery's Iranian partner and director, Kourosh Nouri, "and out of those millions, there are maybe 50,000 who have a chance at doing something with their careers, which is why we have a strong emerging artists agenda." The plan is to put in place a cycle of two-year programmes that will focus on different media. This year's, for example, will showcase sculpture, media art and painting. Next up are photography and video installations.

In the sculpture corner for Seven Positions are Garnitschnig and Hafele. Garnitschnig, a traditionally trained sculptor, is showing a series of "pillows" and taut, squeezed shapes are a considered play on form and material. Hafele's faceless human figures, which are carved out of wood before being covered in acrylic, use movement to express human emotion. "The whole emotion of a person is in the face," says the 30-year-old Austrian. "And I really don't want to show emotions on his face. Instead, I like to transfer that to the body." His figurines are many-limbed, twisted forms, frozen mid-move.

One of the better known emerging artists is Sadjdi, the Iranian painter whose vast apocalyptic landscapes fashioned from household paint show a dark, deserted world almost devoid of human life. Why the special paint? "I like the glossy look of it," he says. "And you can use it very lavishly." Also from Tehran is Massoumi, whose psychological vision is played out via gargoyles and jesters amid swirls of colour.

Other painters include Esteban, whose wide-eyed, childlike subjects are innocent and twisted, and the baby of the group, 21-year-old Mueller, whose crude, ironic depictions of dark-eyed gorillas in human-like poses are a playful but serious look at the collision between humanity and technology. Representing digital art is Garnicnig, an Austrian. Described as "post-conceptual", his works use abstract photography and technicolour palettes that challenge perception. "We have chosen to exhibit the most conservative body of his work," says Nouri, "because I don't think the market is yet ready for some of more cutting edge conceptual pieces."

Some names may already be familiar: in December, the gallery hosted Sneak Preview, an exhibition of their work among others, designed to whet the appetite. And Esteban and Hafele already have exhibitions behind them. "The concept of emerging artists doesn't mean amateur," Nouri says. "We call them emerging because they are not established like the rest of our artists, and of course the prices are very reasonable."

With so many works on display, it seems an ambitious exhibition to stage during the notoriously quiet summer months. "I run a professional gallery," says Nouri, "and my intention is to make amazing exhibitions. Whether people come in one go or three goes or 50 goes, that doesn't really bother me. A lot of collectors are away in Europe and many people leave Dubai for vacation. But I'm not going to sacrifice three months of the year because a few are not here in Dubai."

Buying work by emerging artists reflects a love of art over brands, according to Hafele. "Some people love the big names," he says, "but when you go for this kind of stuff, you are interested in art ultimately, not by names or brands. You're buying interesting pieces and you're helping to build a career." Nouri spread his net wide when sourcing new artists. "I've been a collector for about 12 years and more or less in the art milieu for many years, so curators tell me about new artists. And we have excellent connections with the universities in Europe. We go to the end of year shows, to diplomas and all those things. Eventually, you meet extremely talented people."

Seven Positions starts tomorrow and runs until October. For more information visit www.carbon12dubai.com.