x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Now on display: the art of good and evil

An exhibition titled Heroes & Villains explores the concept from an artistic point of view at the Lawrie Shabibi Gallery in Al Quoz.

DUBAI // An art exhibit in Al Quoz is exploring Heroes & Villains, a topic the organisers hope will resonate in light of the Arab Spring.

"Everything is kind of in flux at the moment ... and it just makes you realise what you thought was, wasn't," said Asmaa al Shabibi, the Iraqi-born co-owner of the Lawrie Shabibi Gallery. "Things have really been turned around, and we're looking at things differently."

Ms al Shabibi, the former managing director of Art Dubai, founded the gallery with William Lawrie last year.

While the topic is one that featured artists have been more than willing to tackle, the distinction between the two concepts is still unclear.

"I definitely don't have a better understanding about who the heroes and villains of today are," said Ali Abdel Mohsen, a 26-year-old journalist who will exhibit work from a larger collection, The Voice From The Clouds. It is the first Dubai exhibition for the Egyptian, who depicts the hardships of life in Egypt on the back of old cereal boxes.

"The more I looked into the topic, the more confusing it became. Ambiguity is a huge part of what I do, and, at the end of the day, everything is open to interpretation."

Mr Mohsen said he started his work before the revolution began, but was, nonetheless, influenced by the build up towards the events that took place on January 25.

For Aicha Hamu, a France-based Moroccan, the theme of the exhibition allowed her to look past the Arab uprisings and apply the topic to celebrity life. Her featured piece, Queen Liz, shows the late actress Elizabeth Taylor surrounded by her eight husbands.

The piece, said Ms Hamu, who is also working on a solo show at the Picasso Museum in Paris, shows the hard reality hidden behind a veneer of glamour.

The message can still be applied to the revolutions in the Middle East, she added. "The consumer society is using images as the more efficient tool for political propaganda in numerous countries.

"But I think people are waking up because this visual manipulation can't hide the dark reality anymore," Ms Hamu said.

Elizabeth Taylor "was judged by a lot of people by getting married so many times", said Ms al Shabibi, who first met Ms Hamu in London several years ago.

"This is the result of judgement that society poses. Is she the baddy? Is she the goody? We don't know, at the end of the day."

Mr Mohsen and Ms Hamu will be joined by several other artists, including Marwan Sahmarani of Lebanon, a winner of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize.

The Heroes & Villains exhibition at the Lawrie Shabibi Gallery will run from June 12 to July 31.