A number of exhibitions are currently showing in Dubai that, whether through a cultural or conceptual framework, give viewers a deep insight into the artists' worlds.
Through the mind's eye
Like the best writers and filmmakers, Moataz Nasr is able to use his native Egypt, and voluminous Cairo specifically, as a window of looking at the wider world. The emotional dimensions of his environment are unpicked through ceramics, photography, calligraphy and matchstick sculpture in this latest exhibition, Collision. The show includes everything from a 25-person line-up of porcelain figures that exemplify a different side of Cairene life (including a couple of riot police dragging a woman to the ground) to a huge crossword puzzle made out of 72 photographs of the city, selected from thousands he's taken in recent years. A centrepiece of the show is Oxymoron I (2011), made out of hundreds of sky-blue matchstick heads to create the intricate shape of a calligraphic lion on wood. "Here we have a precious art object that projects its own erasure," writes the critic Nat Muller in the exhibition's accompanying text, referring to this rather flammable work. "[A]s if the material itself resists to be imprisoned within its form."
• Until January 10 at Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.
Iris was a Pupil
James Clar can do a great deal with the humble neon rod, and he employs that skill with painterly flair in Iris was a Pupil, his latest solo exhibition. The American artist left Dubai for New York earlier this year, and returns to exhibit in the region with a host of brand new works that are, perhaps, tinged with some nostalgia for the seaside Gulf town he left behind. Coastline, for instance, is a four-tier cage of stacked neon rods that uses filters to depict a shore retreating to the horizon, while Waves (With Sunset) uses zigzags of neon to capture the meeting of sun on surf. But, more pointedly, the show is an investigation of how much can be done within the limits of rod-based ocular play. Look out for One Minute Dreamstate (1.40am), in which Clar monitored his brain during a period of sleep and turned the peaks and troughs of brain waves into a wonderful eye-like shape, and Wake Up, in which a ringing alarm clock is silenced by being trapped in the vacuum of a bell jar.
• Until December 8 at Carbon 12, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.
The exhibit Silence, by the Syrian painter Khaled Takreti, shows the artist taking an altogether less whimsical, more guttural approach. Reflecting on a particularly difficult year, Takreti's world has been drained of colour and he has stripped down his usually busy scenes to single characters that can embody a multiplicity of meaning. Working on unprimed canvas, there's a tonal contraction from the electric greens and blues of earlier paintings that speaks of a mood altogether different from what we've seen before. A change, perhaps, from the world of innocence to experience as the childhood memories of earlier works fade to frustrated personal tussles, figures garbed in mourning dress and a more sober tone to his statuesque personas. Notable works here are Portrait, an enigmatically expressive image of a woman in a high lace collar - black-and-white save for the shock of red lips that anchor the work - and Aïe, in which a man in a vest yelps at the teeth of a small shark that he holds masochistically to his toes.
• Until November 29 at Ayyam Gallery, Gate Village, DIFC.
A Permanent Record for Future Investigation
Facts and truth are quite different things and the malleability of the two are explored in the group show A Permanent Record for Future Investigation, curated by the New York-based artist Kamrooz Aram. All five artists in some way interrogate the process of how history is created by physical, material "facts", be that in the form of archival photographs or the printed word. Nazgol Ansarinia takes two newspaper articles reporting on the same event and splices them together into the hexagon-potted style of Iranian mirror mosaics. In the interplay of the two articles' differing perspectives, any semblance of coherence fades away. Another strong collection here is Side Profiles: A Study from the Anouchian Passport Series by Hajra Waheed, in which the artist scoured Lebanon's Arab Image Foundation for photographs by the mid-20th century Armenian snapper Antranik Anouchian. Waheed took two portraits - one man and one woman - from these archives and drew reproductions of each, in pencil, three times. Though working from the same photograph for all six drawings, slight inconsistencies occur between them. It's an artful a reminder of the transient nature of how we interpret a subject.
• Until January 10 at Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.
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