Cover story This year's biennial theme is intentionally open to broad interpretation, giving the artists room to experiment.
The new ways of seeing
For artists, exhibiting a new work at the Sharjah Biennial means collaborating with the exhibition's organisers, and sometimes bending their own style and aesthetic. Yet, the biennial's theme this year, Provisions for the Future, is intentionally open to broad interpretation, giving the artists room to experiment. The following is a preview of various experimentations on the year's theme. Creating these works has, in some cases, taken months, and many of the painters, illustrators, photographers, sculptors, videographers and other artists have been working down to the wire to complete their pieces. As a result, some of these are works-in-progress, while others are representations of audio and video work. All will be on display at various galleries and museums in Sharjah from March 16 to May 16.
Malullah lives and works in Bahrain. Her work investigates the new roles being adopted by contemporary Islamic women.
Tarek Atoui is this year's Artist-in-Residence at the Biennial, and artistic director of Amsterdam's STEIM Studios. The Lebanese electro-acoustic musician's debut album is composed entirely from custom-made computer programs, which allow him to meticulously process sounds and samples live, in real time. He builds similar software for each project, and specializes in creating computer tools for interdisciplinary art forms and youth education. The dominant theme of Atoui's work is the social and political, and he presents electronic music and new technologies as tools of expression and identity. This drawing for the Biennial is an image of an annotated circuit board, as a way of explaining his musical vision.
Jose Luis Martinat was born in Lima, Peru and now lives and works in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he studied photography and visual art. Martinat employs video, drawing, photography and text, and much of his art is characterized by the use of pre-existing material, such as film, audio tracks and found images, which he deconstructs and re-purposes to create new associations and meanings. Martinat's work explores the idea of media images as artificial constructions, and how they filter reality and create meaning.
Lamya Gargash, who studied at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London, works with both video and film photogrpahy. Her most recent book project, Presence, features a series of photos of recently-abandoned houses in the UAE. The buildings' interiors are presented as a framework for revealing the Emirates' rapidly changing culture and identity.
Los Angeleno Amir H Fallah is an artist whose works range from painting, drawing and sculpture, which have been exhibited internationally. Fallah's fertile aesthetic and creative intuition have hatched several other projects - the cutting edge arts magazine that he publishes, Beautiful/Decay, which explores new concepts in music, design and fashion, and Something In The Universe, his LA-based design firm that leverages Fallah's vision and network of creatives.
Born in Kuwait and trained in Pakistan and Germany, Hamra Abbas now lives in Boston and Islamabad, and works in a variety of media, from sculpture and painting to digital film. Her work playfully engages with loaded imagery and iconography, and creates new perspectives from which to understand culture, identity and tradition. Abbas is able to meld serious political discussions with light-hearted subjects and meticulous craftsmanship, as in her sculpture series, 'It's a Boy!', which combine the Gripe Water logo with the Hindu myth of the infant Krishna to comment on the South Asian bias for male children.
Originally from the UK and now based in Montreal, Spriggs is a conceptual artist and sculptor whose recent work has earned international attention. Influenced by cubism and futurism, digital art and cinema, his pieces fuse painting, drawing, photography, digital media and sculpture to create illusionary image spaces that play with the threshold between the second and third dimensions. Famously, his layered two-dimensional drawings are suspended in display cases so that they appear to be three-dimensional sculptures.