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Wednesday
Nov192014

My Top 25 Picks for IDFA 2014 



The 27th edition of IDFA (International Documentary and Film Festival in Amsterdam) will take place from 19th-30th November 2014. I will be there for most of it (my first time attending this festival) and looking forward to marathon documentary viewing sessions.  

This year's edition includes around 300 films, and special themed sections including DocLab: Immersive Reality, The Female Gaze, Of Media and Men and Heddy Honigmann Restrospective.
Here are my top 25 picks: 


Act and Wind
Marcelo Masagão, Brazil, 2014, colour / black and white, DCP, 72
 
  


The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence 
Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark / England / Norway, 2012, colour, DCP, 159'
Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark / England / Indonesia / Norway / Finland, 2014, colour, DCP, 98' 

  

These two films go hand in hand, and if you get a chance, try to see them back to back.  



Citizen Four 
Laura Poitras, USA / Germany, 2014, colour, DCP, 112' 
 



F for Fake
Orson Welles, France / Germany / Iran, 1974, colour, DCP, 89' 
 
  


Finding Fela
Alex Gibney, USA, 2014, colour, DCP, 119' 
  
 


Focus on Infinity
Joerg Burger, Austria, 2014, colour, DCP, 80' 

  


From Caligari to Hitler 
Rüdiger Suchsland, Germany, 2014, colour / black and white, DCP, 115' 


This richly illustrated film essay presents the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) as an exciting period in which the young art of film underwent reveloutionary developments. 


The Great Museum
Johannes Holzhausen, Austria, 2014, colour, DCP, 94'



The Green Prince
Nadav Schirman, England / Israel / Germany, 2014, colour / black and white, DCP, 95'




In the Basement
Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 2014, colour, DCP, 81'

In the Basement seeks to depict Austrian's relationships with their basements and to define the specificities of Austrian basements – and if in fact such specificities exist. A filmic exploration of the daily lives of Austrian basements, the film will both unearth answers and throw up new questions, thereby shedding light on the hidden underground. 


Love is All: 100 Years of Love and Courtship
Kim Longinotto, England, 2014, colour / black and white, DCP, 70'
  
  


Me Girl, Me Princess
María Aramburú, Valeria Pavan, Argentina, 2014, color, DCP, 47'
 



Night Will Fall 
Andre Singer, USA / England / Israel, 2014, colour / black and white, DCP, 85' 


A powerful reconstruction of the creation of a documentary about the German concentration camps. Edited by Hitchcock, the film was never shown. 


Our City 
Maria Tarantino, Belgium / The Netherlands, 2014, colour, DCP, 83'

 


Paris is Burning
Jennie Livingston, USA, 1990, colour, 35mm, 71' 
 
A gorgeous portrait of ball culture in 1980s New York. 


The Possibilities are Endless 
Edward Lovelace, James Hall, England, 2014, colour, DCP, 83' 
 
 


Profession: Documentarist
Farahnaz Sharifi, Firouzeh Khosrovani, Mina Keshavarz, Nahid Rezaei, Sahar Salahshoor, Sepideh Abtahi, Shirin Barghnavard, Iran, 2014, colour, DCP, 80'
 



La Rabbia 
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1963, black and white, 35mm, 52' 


In this poetic film essay, the first installment of a two-part project, the Marxist Pasolini analyes modern life and offers a scathing critique of Europe. 


Regarding Susan Sontag
Nancy Kates, USA, 2014, colour / black and white, DCP, 100'
 
  


Salaam Cinema
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran, 1995, colour, video, 75'


Mohsen Makhmalbaf's comical look at a hidden part of Iranian culture, in the form of a series of real casting calls with wannabe actors. 


The Salt of the Earth
Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders, Italy / France, 2013, colour, DCP, 110' 
  


Story of Night
Clemens Klopfenstein, Switzerland / Germany, 1979, black and white, 16mm, 63' 

An experimental ode to the city, a visual poem without text or narrative, composed of night scenes from 150 cities.  


Tristia - A Black Sea Odyssey 
Stanislaw Mucha, Germany, 2014, colour, DCP, 98' 

A journey along the banks of the Black Sea gives a kaleidoscopic impression of how the populations of seven adjoining countries see the world.  


We Come as Friends
Hubert Sauper, France / Austria, 2014, colour, DCP, 105'
 
Wednesday
Nov052014

QUOZ Arts Festival 2014

 

The third edition of QUOZ Arts Festival is on this Saturday, 8th November 2014 from 10am - 10pm. The all day event will include exhibition tours, performances, talks and film screenings - all free to enter. The complete schedule and map can be downloaded from here

The community-based event returns with an expanded programme, which will offer public events spanning design, music, art and film, across 45 creative spaces in Al Quoz’s arts district. Running from 10am till 10pm, the festival is free to attend and is open to all, making it a great initiative for the community to get involved in the local arts scene.

This year’s line-up will include live art and public murals by local artists, workshops, film screenings, gallery openings, live music performances and a street food market. Dedicated family-friendly events and workshops will take place through the day catering to children and parents alike.

 

Whilst most of the participating spaces are within walking distances, there are a few that aren't. There will be free QUOZ branded shuttle buses available for pick up and drop off from Times Square Mall and First Gulf Bank Metro Station to the various Quoz Arts Festival participating spaces.   

 

I won't highlight any specific exhibitions because they are all worth visiting (complete list of galleries can be found here), but I will highlight some of the events and spaces that are worth checking out. 

 

Satellite (10.00 am - 10.00 pm)
You will find a selection of art, publications, music and t-shirts by Barbu, Digital Gravel DXB, LovePrint. Satellite can be found in Alserkal Avenue.




Film screenings at Art Sawa (11.00am - 8.00pm) 
Art Sawa will sreen 3 artist-based film screenings throughout the day.

Pollock at 11.00am 

Basquiat at 4.40pm 

Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon at 8.00pm  




Sound Art Performance with Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver at Gallery Ward (4.30pm - 5.00pm)




Demo at Gulf Photo Plus of tintype portraits by Antonie Robertson (5.00pm - 6.00pm) 
Exhibiting artist Antonie Robertson will walk viewers through the tintype photography process by capturing portraits live on site at Gulf Photo Plus. You will also get a chance to see his solo exhibition, The Slow Portrait - UAE Tintype Photography.




Artist Talk at A4 Space (5.00pm - 6.00pm)  
Artists Lynne Heller and Jackie Calderwood will present a talk on ‘Engines of Difference’, a site-responsive project using tourist transportation and the geography of Dubai. 




Improv Theatre at The Courtyard Playhouse (6.30pm - 9.00pm)
  
Drama fans are invited to watch a showcase by the Geoffrey Dolan workshop participants from 6.00pm - 7.30pm, and the interactive and unpredictable show "Maestro" from 8.00pm. 




Film screening at A4 Space (7.00pm - 10.00pm)   
Dubai International Film Festival present ‘Hopper Stories’, a unique series of short fiction films inspired by the extraordinary work of American painter Edward Hopper.  

 

 

 

Event details
Date: Saturday, 8th November 2014 from 10.am - 10.00pm
Venue: Al Quoz, Dubai (location map
Detailed map and schedule of events. Free branded shuttles will be available for pick up and drop off from Times Square Mall and First Gulf Bank Metro Station to various Quoz Arts Festival participating spaces in Alserkal Avenue and Al Quoz.

 

 

 

QUOZ Arts Festival 2014 

 

 

Monday
Nov032014

Abu Dhabi Art 2014 

Dan Flavin, untitled (to Virginia Dwan) 2, 1971. blue, yellow, pink, and red fluorescent light. 8 ft. (244 cm) wide across a corner. CL no. 278


The sixth edition of Abu Dhabi Art is on this week from 5th-8th November 2014. The fair will include international and local galleries, a series of talks, performances, large scale installations and a first look at artworks acquired specifically for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection. The complete schedule of events can be found here.

I missed Abu Dhabi Art last year, so I'm looking forward to attending this year, especially the talks and performances.

Here's what to expect: 

 

Art Talks


This year the programme is inspired by the “life” of Modern Museums, including the future museums of Saadiyat Island, as spaces of education, performance and experience. 

Reflecting on these themes will be a Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series panel featuring Jean NouvelErnesto Neto and Vincent Pomarede titled “Museums as Sites for New Experiences”, and a playful lecture-performance by Martin Creed titled “What is Art?”.

Artist and artwork engagement with wider audiences is also explored in talks by world-renowned artists such as the legendary Richard Long, one of the founders of the “land art” movement, as well as inspiring talks by Hassan Hajjaj and Job Smeets of the design collective Studio Job, whose works represent different perspectives on popular culture. 

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection will be discussed and part of it will be on display for audiences to experience in the exhibition Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection, which opens in parallel with Abu Dhabi ArtFeaturing interactive and engaging artworks that use light as a medium and a muse, the exhibition is enhanced by a public panel that introduces audiences to three artists in the exhibition and collection: Angela BullochRachid Koraichi and Shirazeh Houshiary.  




Artists' Waves

Xing Danwen, Urban Fiction19, 2004, C-Print on D-Bond, 80cm x 115.7cm. Courtesy the artist.

Curated by Fabrice Bousteau, Artists’ Waves reflects Abu Dhabi Art’s role as a crossroads for established and emerging artists and a melting pot of contemporary art forms and practices capturing the spirit of transversality.

Works by Ahmed Kassem, Ahmed Khaled, Alessandro Cannistrà, Andrzej Zielinski, Christine Boillat, Francisco Sierra, Habib Farajabadi, Huber.Huber: Reto and Markus Huber, Luc Andrié, Luca Cervini, Nagla Samir, Shadi Ghadirian and Xing Danwen will be featured.

 


Beyond 

Mohammed Kazem - Directions (Circle) 2014 White acrylic, aluminum and LED light 123 x 298 x 10 cm

Francois Morellet, Pier and Ocean, 2014 38 blue argon neon tubes and wooden pier, variable dimensions

Beyond aims to introduce art to public spaces and this year's edition features large–scale installations and will be on display in public areas throughout the city for six months. 

Together these works form a series of autonomous artworks in dialogue with each other culminating in a presentation of unity in diversity revealing the dynamism of public art.  Inspired by the character of Abu Dhabi and its changing urban landscape Beyond creates a conceptual line to guide the development of even greater moves to introduce and promote “art in public space.”

Beyond features works by 14 artists including Ai Weiwei (Lisson Gallery), Bita Fayyazi (Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde), Choi Jeong Hwa (Park Ryu Sook Gallery), Feryel Lakhdar (Elmarsa), François Morellet (kamel mennour), Hanaa Malallah (The Park Gallery), Ilya Kabakov (Galerie Brigitte Schenk), Mohammed Kazem (Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde), Sahand Hesamiyan (The Third Line), Sherin Guirguis (The Third Line), Shilpa Gupta (Galleria Continua), Subodh Gupta (Hauser & Wirth), Virginie Yassef (Galerie GP & N Vallois).




Performing Arts

Amala Dianor, NIOUN REC (Only Us), Performance, 30 minutes. Music: François Przybylski

The art performances this year will include imusic, dance, song and sound presented within a "particular coloured ambiance" titled Hours and Colours, curated by Fabrice Bousteau. Hours of each day will be associated with a particular colour (blue, orange and violet) and its correlating symbols. At these times, visitors will gather for art performances with interrelated forms of content presented within a particular coloured ambiance. 

Inspired by the French Gothic manuscript Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (c.1410) (The very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry), which references the  techniques of illumination and calligraphy that are common points in both Islamic and Occidental Art, Hours and Colours will articulate these connections in a programme that includes: 

“Blue, a true color in Art”, a video screening with music by Nils Frahm, featuring works of art from Ancient Egypt to the modern day

“Killer Road” by legendary artist and musician Patti SmithJesse Smith and Soundwalk Collectives, a sound exploration and meditation on the idea of perpetual motion and the cycle of life and death

“Nioun Rec” (Only us)  by Amala Dianor, an improvised dialogue between music and dance

“Rising Carpet” an activated art-installation by Moussa Sarr

 

Still from Paper Music

The Performing Arts programme will also include Durub Al Tawaya which will showcase a variety of artistic and cultural collaborations between local and international institutions focusing on performances and publishing projects that will launch during Abu Dhabi Art and extend to spring 2015. 

 

This year's edition of Durub Al Tawaya is inspired by the philosophical themes and the dramatical structure of Hayy Bin Yaqzan, a 12th century novel written by Andalusian scientist and philosopher Ibn Tufail. The story illustrates the complexity of humans’ relationship to nature and to others. Ibn Tufail puts forward an early interpretation of materialism that questions human dependency on objects for the sake of life’s comforts. Durub Al Tawaya will include: 

That Night Follows Day, a rehearsed reading written by Tim Etchells, the artistic director of the acclaimed company Forced Entertainment, performed by sixteen children and young adults from Abu Dhabi

 Sound performance using cars with super modified stereo systems by Joe Namy

 An interactive performance created by Cevdet Erek mimicking the sound of the sea featuring Jana Saleh

The Middle East premiere of Paper Music, a cine-concert with video by world-renowned visual artist William Kentridge and music by Philip Miller.

 

Durub Al Tawaya refers to the Emirati term tawaya; points of respite where desert travellers found underground water springs. These unchanging loci were marked along paths or durub. In classical Arabic, tawaya refers to layers of meaning, ideas and values that are revealed as they unfold.




Seeing through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection

Otto Piene, Hängende Lichtkuge (Hanging Light Ball), 1972. Perforated and chromium-plated brass sphere, chromium-plated brass spheres, light bulbs, and electric motor, 223.5 x 68 cm. Photo © Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

 

Seeing through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection features 19 artworks acquired specifically for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection, as well as two key loans from its partner institution, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. This collection will be on display till 19th January 2015. 

Seeing through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection examines the theme of light as a primary aesthetic principle in art. This unifying thesis offers many avenues for interpretation, whether natural or artificial, directed or reflected, interior or exterior, transcendent or celestial. The theme’s richness and flexibility also has particular relevance across cultures and time periods.

The exhibition unfolds through five sections that examine light in various iterations: Activated, Celestial, Perceptual, Reflected, and Transcendent.

While the exhibition begins chronologically in the 1960s (which aligns with the start date for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection), it quickly blends time and mixes established and mid-career artists, as well as assembling a diversity of media within each section.

From immersive environments that visitors can move around in and even through to video, painting, and sculpture, one will be able to experience light in all of its spatial, sensory, and perceptual phenomena.

Some of the artists included are Angela Bulloch, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Robert Irwin, Y.Z. Kami, Bharti Kher, Rachid Koraïchi, Yayoi Kusama, Otto Piene, and Douglas Wheeler.

 

 

Schedule of events can be downloaded here.

 

Event details
Date: Wednesday 5th - Saturday 8th November 2014
Venue: Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Cultural District, Abu Dhabi
Free entry. All talks and events are open to the public, but registration in advance is necessary

 

www.abudhabiart.ae  

 

 

 

 

Monday
Oct272014

Film Screening: The City Dark 


To accompany its latest exhibition Darkened Cities by Thierry Cohen, East Wing will host a free film screening of The City Dark on Tuesday, 28th October 2014.

 

It's quite a suitable film to watch at this exhibition, since it addresses some of the issues raised in the Darkened Cities photo series, i.e. lack of visible stars in our skies due to light pollution and its impact on us physically and psychologically. It's a documentary worth watching, so if you're in the neighbiourhood, don't miss this. The exhibition is worth visiting as well. 

  

The City Dark chronicles the disappearance of darkness. When filmmaker Ian Cheney moves to New York City from Maine and discovers an urban sky almost completely devoid of stars. He poses a deceptively simple question, "What do we lose, when we lose the night?”

 

 

Exhibition details 
Date: Tuesday, 26th October at 7pm (Darkened Cities exhibition on till 20th November 2014)
Venue: Limestone House #12, Dubai International Financial Center (location map)
Free entry.

 

 


www.east-wing.org 
www.thecitydark.com 
www.thierrycohen.com 

 

Monday
Oct272014

Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 Diary - Day 3

Theeb


Today was a very good day at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, started off by watching a film from Iran, then went to the Middle East premiere of Theeb, a film that's had a lot of buzz around it since it's premiere in Venice and ended in with a dark comedy set deep in snowy Norway.

 

 

Tales


A film that weaves in and out of the lives of many characters in this film set in Tehran, some characters are linked to each other and some aren't. A damning look at power, bureaucracy and the institution of marriage. There is despair in this film, but it also has hope. An eloquent film. I liked it a lot.

 

 

Theeb

One of those films that would be described as epic. An impressive first film for its director Naji Abu Nowar and for the non-actors featured in it. About Bedouin pride, hospitality, brotherhood and growing up too quickly. 

Poignant and strong visual story telling set in the Jordanian desrt in the early 1900s. This one will definitely become a classic and one that rightfully belongs in the list of top Arab films. 

 

In Order of Disappearance


This was the blackest black comedy I've ever seen. Such a good film, on so many weird twisted levels. Scandinavian humour is an acquired taste, one I am will to indulge in. 

 

 

www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae 

Sunday
Oct262014

Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 Diary - Day 2

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Today's line up of films I watched at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival included horror, absurdity and a Truffaut classic. 

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night 

 

This was a fun film to watch. An Iranian vampire noir set in "Bad City",  stylish looking film with a great soundtrack that includes western and Iranian indie and electro music. This film has been receiving rave reviews around the film festival circuit and now I know why. 

If you're trying to find a costume for Halloween this year, I suggest you go as "The Girl" (pictured above) as she's referred to in the end credits. 

Lots of favourite scenes in this film. This is one of my favourites, the entire scene was set to Death by White Lies

Floating neither up or down
I wonder when I’ll hit the ground
Will the earth beneath my body shake
And cast your sleeping hearts awake
Could it tremble stars from moonlit skies
Could it drag a tear from your cold eyes
I live on the right side, I sleep in the left
That’s why everything’s got to be love or death

Yes, this fear's got a hold on me

 

 

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence


This film started with the above line. After it ended, I told myself I have to get my hands on the first two parts.  A Pigeon Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence is an absurd film about the absurdity of life. I absolutely loved watching it.

The line "I'm happy to hear you're doing fine." was uttered many times in the film and the more we heard it, the more absurd it sounded. (I do realise I used the word "absurd" three times, but I really can't think of another word to describe this film.)



 

Day for Night / La Nuit Americaine


non-romanticised look at movie making and (mis)affairs of the heart on a movie set. My favourite quote from this film, "I might quit a guy for a movie, but I'd never quit a movie for a guy". 

 

 

www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae 

 


Saturday
Oct252014

Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 Diary - Day 1



Last night saw the opening of the eighth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Whilst I didn't go to see the opening film, From A to B (the first Emirati film to open a film festival in the UAE), I did make a plan to drive back and forth with a friend over the coming week to watch as many films as we can.

I will post short updates over the next few days, sharing which films I watched and what I thought of them.

 

Here's what I watched today:

 

The Color of Pomegranates

 

We are honored to have the restored version of this film screening at this festival. A film full of beautiful visuals and symbolisms about Armenian poet Sayat Nova. So many scenes looked like beautifully composed images that could be framed on a wall. Visual poetry. 

 

 

The Salt of the Earth

A profound documentary about Sebastião Salgado. This wasn't just about the photographer, but about humanity and life. I've seen Salgado's work in museums and galleries, and some are large prints, but I never imagined I'd them at this scale, i.e. on a large cinema screen.

The film started with this image - this version does it no justice at all - but Salgado describing the thousands of mine workers in it and comparing this scene to what it must have been like when the Pyramids were built, there's no sound of machinary, only murmurs. Goosebumps.

The film had some some soul crushing images and words. A powerful documentary that is now in my list of top 10, maybe even top five favourite documentaries. 

 

 

Magical Girl

A subtle, dark and troubling film. Amazing how so much can be said without showing a lot.  




 
www.abudhabifilmfestival.ae 

Thursday
Oct232014

CreativeMornings in Dubai

 

CreativeMornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. It started in 2008, when its creator Tina Roth Eisenberg (Swissmiss) wanted an ongoing and accessible event for New York’s creative community. She came up with a simple concept, breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning a month, free of charge and open to anyone.

Since then, CreativeMornings has expanded to 98 cities and Dubai is one of the latest addition and will host its first ever Creative Mornings session on Thursday, 30th October 2014 in the CNN Building in Media City from 8.30am - 10.00am. 

The theme for this month's talk is "Crossover" and will include two speakers:

Mark Stringa who will talk about "City-Scale urbanism and how creative approaches are required to change behaviours at a mass-scale, and how that translates into everyday creativity, and the rise of the so-called Creative Class."

and

Tahir Shah who will talk about "taking a leap of faith from a safe job into the unknown - the trials, tribulations and pitfalls of being an independent food retailer in a big city, with even bigger guys."

 

Learn more about the two speakers and register here

If you are not familiar with CreativeMornings, you can watch previous talks from other cities here

 

www.creativemornings.com
www.creativemornings.com/cities/dxb
www.creativemornings.com/talks/marc-stringa-and-tahir-shah

Wednesday
Oct222014

Shia LaBeouf by Rob Cantor (live version) 

 

I started my day watching this. Odd considering I watched the movie Fury last night, starring Shia LaBeouf. 

I've watched it several times already. I suggest you do the same. It's good. Trust me.  Make sure you watch it till the end. The very end. 

 

 


The song is a couple of years old, but this video was recently made, all shot in one day. It includes The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, The West Los Angeles Children’s Choir, The Argus Quartet, aerialists, dancers and a very special cameo. 

After listening to this song, I looked up Rob Cantor and listened to his other music. I ended up buying his album Not a Trampoline. I really like it, and will try to write more about it soon. 

 

 

Oh, and if you have not read about my personal incident with Shia LaBeouf in Amsterdam a month ago, take a look here

 

www.robcantor.com

 

 

Monday
Oct202014

Exhibition - Works on Paper: Hikayat at Green Art Gallery 

Installation view of Works on Paper: Hikayat


Last Saturday I visited Green Art Gallery to see Works on Paper: Hikayat. The exhibition includes over 50 works on on paper by Modern Arab artists including Khouzayma AlwaniMahmoud HammadAdham IsmailJamil MolaebFateh MoudarresAref El RayessKhaldoun ShishaklySeif Wanly and Elias Zayat


 

Taking storytelling as its main theme ("hikayat" means stories in Arabic), the exhibition brings together works that offer a glimpse of drawing’s potential to make cultural, social, and political proposals or stories, through diverse formal processes. 

Drawing is a medium that offers an intimate and open field for imaginative elaboration, in which concepts and ideas can emerge and change with relative ease. Uninhibited by the obligation to create a finished and independent object, as is traditionally associated with painting and sculpture, drawing as a medium lends itself readily to the theoretical and the experimental. 

 

The exhibition includes work that is beautiful, harsh, emotional and sensual. Despite all the artists being male, there is a strong female presence in the exhibition. There are some rare works here, so if you are in Dubai, don't miss this, it's on till Suday, 26th October.

My only gripe is that I wish the gallery includes a small description about each artist or work to help visitors understand the importance of this work, and to put it in cultural and historical context relevant to this region.)

 

 

My favourite work from this exhibition is a one of a kind piece by Khaldoun Sheishakly (see images below). Titled Shops and Vendors of the Past, it is a collection of 500 works on paper and due to its delicate condition, we cannot browse through each sheet. But the few pages that were laid out had such amazing details drawn with an ink pen, each one telling stories visually and with words. This piece ought to be in a museum for more people to see it. It is sublime. 

Khaldoun Shishakly, Shops and Vendors of the Past, Ink on paper, set of 100 works, each 26 x 21 cm

Installation view of Khaldoun Shishakly's Shops and Vendors of the Past, Ink on paper, set of 100 works, each 26 x 21 cm

Shops and Vendors of the Past is a rare account of 500 works on paper by a Syrian artist, Khaldoun Sheishakly, who has spent his entire life drawing and documenting 500 Damascene professions in intricate detail.

It represents an important history of storytelling and life in Syria and summarizes the artists’ needs to carve a cultural identity that reflected the groundbreaking social and political changes that were taking place at that time. 

 

 

Here are more works from the exhibition. 

Khouzayma Alwani

Khouzayma Alwani, Untitled, 1999, Ink on canson paper, 35.5 x 26.5 cm

The region’s political turmoils in the 1970s and 80s are portrayed by Khouzayma Alwani (b.1934, Syria). Alwani’s delicate horrors are so exquisite they beguile the viewer into fascination with intricate imagery. Following the Hama Massacre of 1981, his work revolved around the world as a big dramatic theater of monsters and beasts, in a tacit allusion to the Syrian society in a state of devastation. 

 

Aref El Rayess

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, c. 1973, Ink on canson paper, 36 x 44.5 cm

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, c. 1973, Ink on canson paper, 37.5 x 38 cm

The work in the exhibition by Aref el Rayess (1928-2005, Lebanon) belong to a series of drawings he produced in the early 1970s to denounce the corruption he was witnessing within the political circles governing the Middle East after the Cairo accord in 1969 and the 1973 Arab Israeli war.

For El Rayess, it is as if the leaders and politicians were gambling our destinies through fishy manipulations and tacit agreements, hence jeopardizing the ideals of the revolution his generation firmly believed in and fought for. The age of deceit has started, and the political scene in the Arab world seems like a big farce. 

 

 

Mahmoud Hammad

Mahmoud Hammad, Untitled, 1957, Gouache on paper, 35 x 26 cm 

Mahmoud Hammad, Untitled, 1958, Gouache on paper, 36 x 46 cm

Syrian master Mahmoud Hammad (1923-1988, Syria) recounted rural Syrian life, earlier in his career. Although he has been widely known for his late Abstract Calligraphic period (during the period 1964 till his death in 1988), in which the Arab script and letters became the main element, Hammad’s earlier work are of equal importance.

Upon his return from Rome, he moved to Daraa where he lived for two years and started a series of paintings depicting the social scenes of the Southern area of Horan (Daraa). During that period, Hammad’s central theme was the concept of the family, in addition to the role of the mother.

He was also concerned with the political landscape during that period such as February 1958, a work through which he evoked the union between Egypt and Syria by depicting the metaphorical birth of the two nations' child and at the same time, alluded to the Palestinian cause in many of his works amongst which A Girl from Horan, Wounded and Exile.

This exhibition includes Hammad’s works on paper from the Horan period, most of which became studies for much larger paintings, and many of which have never been shown to the public. 

 

Adham Ismail

Adham Ismail, Untitled, Ink on carton, 47.5 x 32.5 cm

Adham Ismail, Untitled, Ink on carton, 44 x 32 cm

 

Jamil Molaeb

Jamil Molaeb, Untitled, c. 1992, Gouache on carton, 50 x 70 cm

For many artists of his generation, storytelling included the representation of the traditional rural life they were witnessing. This is true of Lebanese artist Jamil Molaeb’s (b. 1948) works, which were inspired by the landscapes he saw in the mountains of Lebanon and other sceneries from the traditional life of different Arab communities, depicting in his own way the villages, cities, fields and the people in their daily life. 

 

Fateh Moudarres

Fateh Moudarres, Untitled, 1981, Watercolor on paper, 29.5 x 38.5 cm

For Fateh Moudarres (1922-1999, Syria), his representational language was engaged with mythology, religion and popular lore as well as a deep political engagement. An accomplished writer and poet, his “dessins” were also featured in several of his published short stories.

Moudarres was once quoted: “It looks childish, but it is not childish. In my paintings one can see, how much I love human beings, in my art I stand near them, when the power of fate and oppressive structures beset them”.  

 

Seif Wanly

Seif Wanly, Untitled, c. 1953, Pastel on canson paper, 30.5 x 47 cm

Seif Wanly, Untitled, c. 1953, Pastel on canson paper, 30.5 x 47 cm

The theatrical and the sublime is present in the work of Egyptian artist Seif Wanly (1906-1979). The exhibition includes several works on paper in which he portrayed society’s more esoteric dimensions, featuring medieval traditions, circus acrobats and ballet dancers. 

 


Elias Zayat

Elias Zayat, The Rider, 1967, Ink and watercolor on paper, 63 x 43 cm

Another artist who has been throughly engaged with mythology is the Syrian artist Elias Zayat (b. 1935). Considered among the great modern artists in Syria, Zayat has had a long and rich career in painting and drawing over many decades.

Known for his dramatic portraiture of mankind, his practice has been thoroughly engaged with the visual legacy of mythology, ancient civilizations and religions in the region. Figures intertwine, almost floating, while recurring images of faces, some classical, others saintly and yet others tortured, recall Zayat’s other endeavor – conservationist and restorer of orthodox icons.   

 

 

 

Exhibition details
Date: On till Saturday, 26th October 2014, Saturday - Thursday 10am - 7pm
Venue: Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)

 

 

www.gagallery.com 
www.gagallery.com/exhibitions/2014-09-15_works-on-paper-hikayat 

 

 

[images and text via Green Art Gallery]