300 – Alia Lootah

300 has grown out of a long term series of self-portraits. The series began in 2009 and has always been motivated by questions of self-reflexion. This mode of self-examination becomes transformative as different perceptions – across moods, across time – are applied and the self-rendering is shaped and realised differently. 

The process always begins with a photograph which is then transformed – sometimes into a painting or, as in this instance, into an installation. Whatever the end result, the first move is the same: the image is reduced or decomposed into its fundamental constituent elements, what I call the "bare" elements of form and colour. This motion of reduction is also, almost counter-intuitively, a revelatory movement towards realisation – making the intangible, tangible. 

The process is layered with questions: What is the 'truth' found in a photograph? What is the 'truth' found in a painting? 

By decomposing the image into its bare elements of form and colour, the subject depicted becomes raw, taking a bold physical form. The attempt is to bring the portrait closer to reality – to extrapolate the information to better grasp the essence, to understand what constitutes an image so familiar yet, equally, so alien.

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School – Alaa Edris

In 1995, I was in my fifth year of elementary school. One day, I was dropped off at 7am, almost an hour before the daily morning assembly. I had time to kill. My favourite spot was the school’s backyard. It was almost deserted, rumoured to be haunted. Most girls were afraid to go there – I wasn’t. A large pile of fluorescent light tubes had, for some reason, been put there. They were still in their original boxes. I was intrigued. I began to unbox the boxed light tubes until I had about 10 or 12 tubes laid in front of me. I picked one up and smashed it on the wall. I picked another one up and did the same. I liked it. I continued to smash all the tubes that I had unboxed until the school bell rang and it was time to go stand in the assembly line.

In this artwork, 21 years after the event, I re-enact the same action, albeit with artistic intent. I staged the performance in a school’s backyard, built in the 1990s, and I documented it through photography and video. This act of remembrance is about reconstituting a lost moment and knowingly concedes that memories cannot be recovered or re-played. The documentation of the event, as well as shattered light bulbs saved from the performance, are the literal fragments of this second repeated act of memory. The artwork presents disparate pieces of two echoing pasts that cannot be reconstituted or made whole again – even through a diligently documented performance that strives to mimic. 

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The Snow White Chronicles – Jumairy

The visceral, probing action caught in Mohammed Kazem's work 'Tongue' (1996) has always affected me in an immediate and lasting way. This impact means it has always been my favourite piece by an Emiarti artist. 

The photographs are of Kazem exploring domestic items with his tongue – which sounds innocent, innocuous even – but viewing them you cannot shake the sense that you're witnessing something strange and idiosyncratic – perhaps a kind of warped behavioural impulse? That these moments are presented as serialised self-portraits, offered up for public scrutiny and consumption, feels utterly audacious – what he has exposed should, at best, be a kind of inexplicable and private personal compulsion. 

I wanted to explore this terrain, asking myself what kind of compulsions I, as an artist, might also have to expose personal impulses. The exploration of the orifices in 'Tongue' feels to me to be equally about an exploration of inside/outside, openings and all driven towards a need for heightened physical connection to inanimate objects and the world at large. It made me think about other kinds of 'openings', 'gateways' and 'connections' not often or easily crossed. When I thought about connections between myself and the physical or sensory world, it led me to think about other kinds of portals, windows and modes of exchange that can be opened between the self and the sensory – particularly when these are across digital boundaries into the non-physical. 

Using an algorithm to heighten this sense of division between the self and the sensory, the connection with the artwork can only be made through choice and through effort. I wanted this effort to suggest the often uncomfortable need we feel to suppress unconventional urges, like those we see erupt in 'Tongue'.

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Slithering Inks – Amal Alkhaja

Looking through the work of Hassan Sharif and his students, particularly in the practise of Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, I am struck by the way they embraced a simple, yet compulsive, need to obsess, to feed on the impulse to repeat. While I can relate to the force that drove them to go back to repeating the same actions over and over again like in Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s work ‘Primordial Forms II’ and ‘Forms’, I have always felt the pressure to force content and resolution upon a concept.  

This is a project that focuses on satisfying the obsession to create an artwork by simply repeating the action of injecting ink into layers of tape. The paths of trapped air in the layered tape prolong the drying process of the ink, allowing it to move around creating different patterns. The contrast between the monotonous process and the varied visual results gives the entire production an undeniable enjoyment. Produced over a period of two months prior to the installation, the project will continue growing throughout the period of the exhibition. 

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'The Guest' and 'Reshaping' – Maitha Abdallah

This work is located at the awkward and tense place where social mores and familial or personal connections meet – somewhere between the societal and the individual, the public and the private. The tension is generated by the reasonable desire not to be judgmental of other people’s behaviour or character, the moral necessity, in some cases, of making negative judgments and a reactive impression of how the individual could, should or might absorb the judgments from loved ones and society.

The piece has its origins in a depressive uncle, that lived an imaginary life that he created, and which became as real to him as the tangible, physical world around him. Yet it was a world of fiction, like an invented play with its characters and scenes.

This three channel video plays with concepts of reality and imagination, drawing upon stories from my memory and imagination as I reflect on a fraught relationship with an uncle suffering from schizophrenia. Judged by family, friends and society around him, the works are an interaction between my “true self” – the internal, shifting feelings I experienced in response to this situation – and more externally imposed judgments. This contradictory dialogue is played out like scenes from a play. 

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Resurgence – Taqwa Alnaqbi

Making papers from elements of Emirati culture is an attempt to retain and reconstitute my heritage and my familial relationships. This dialogue of handmade materials reverently preserves my emotions and thoughts about where I am from. The exercise is infused with great pride and appreciation, and the laborious handmade process is an integral expression of this, giving the artwork value and importance. Looking at the work of Hassan Sharif, I was drawn to the repetitive and meditative acts he often engaged with and enacted. I see many of his sculptural works to be a kind of gradual amassing of thoughts, the final objects ultimately prompting a consideration and reconsideration of the often unnoticed ephemera of our environment

Each piece of paper, 45cm x 60cm, is made from my parents’ traditional clothes, one from my mother and one from my father. The use of these personal artefacts is a call and response with my parents – using objects that are so personal to them, and which are also bound up in tradition, was an attempt to engage with them closely. The transformation of these objects is my attempt to actively seize, absorb and understand my own culture, while the creation of paper denotes communication. 

The paper that I have constructed is layered with the personal and is an act of reconstitution. As other objects are synthesised and remade through the process, they all come to take on paper’s more ‘conventional’ documentation role. As the paper records the details of my journey, it is translated from culture to a pure medium.

The stimulating process of making handmade paper started with these personal objects, which were then mulched into to a fibre. The fibre was turned into a pulp and thus is transformed into another object. Since my work is inspired by my family’s culture (represented through my parents’ garments), the work encapsulates the personal experience of making. The fragility of its execution is deeply personal and hints at churning, constant cultural transformations as they are amassed, changed and evolved throughout my life. 

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Gazing – Fatima Albudoor

Abdullah Al Saadi’s ‘Camar Cande’s Journey’ (2010–2011) is the main source of inspiration; a body of work about a journey Al Saadi took through the north of the UAE and Oman with two companions – his dog and a donkey named Camar Cande. The trek is documented in the form of photographs, videos and watercolor paintings.

Taking a similar approach, my artwork Untitled, 2017 maps out my own journey as I explore my city – Dubai. My trek through Dubai is an observational meditation, using daily rituals to guide the way. Using documentation in the form of iPhone photographs and journal writings, my aim is to access the perspective of the average 20-something Emirati living in Dubai. 

After documenting in this way, my photographs have been translated into cyanotype prints on cotton fabric where the photographs are converted into negatives in order to expose them onto the fabric. It is a tense contradiction to shoot digital and print in a dark-room process, but this contradiction is what makes the journey tangible. It starts on land and ends in the dark-room studio. It’s a performative experience that has been through many layers of conversion before it reaches the viewer. Like Al Saadi, my trek is documented through photos, but contrary to his work, the photographs aren’t the final documents, rather, they are just the beginning of my journey. 

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Dubai Hills – Hind Mezaina

Looking at Abdullah Al Saadi’s exploration of his surroundings and natural environment, especially in ‘Camer Cande's Journey’, I was prompted to think about my own. Al Saadi’s setting is the dramatic landscapes of Khorfakkan, mine is the hectic urban atmosphere of Dubai.  

Dubai is subjected to ongoing construction. This constant change can be seen in the heaps of sand that dot the city; the stones and bricks are piled everywhere – especially around construction sites. I see these heaps every day, wherever I am driving in the city. Over time, I’m come to regard them as our very own hills.  

Just as Al Saadi has been dealing with time and landscape, in ‘Dubai Hills’, I am in search of landscapes, natural or man-made; these ‘hills’ are found across the city. Some last longer than others. They appear, disappear and reappear again, representing change, transformation and transience.

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Shaikha Al Mazrou – Ironic Experiments: | Ironic Experiments through Semi-System:

These works depart from Hassan Sharif's philosophical approach of ‘Objects and Experiments’. In them, I explore the irony in the experiment – the interplay between making, material and ideas. I am often drawn to work that speaks of its making, where the making is also its subject.

The key focus to my field of enquiry originates in the concept of uncertainty and expectations. It looks for – and develops – the beauty and aesthetic of materiality and form as part of an ongoing enquiry into contemporary aesthetic processes.

These two sculptural pieces continue my earlier investigation and exploration of awkward balance. More specifically, through the investigation of material, materiality and ideas, the work negotiates a position between formalism and opposing conceptual approaches and furthers my continuing experiments and questions into the most elementary sculptural qualities. The work oscillates between contrasts – positive and negative space, geometric and organic, form and volume, surface and void, material and tension.

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Markings – Moza Almatrooshi

In my current practice, I deal with memory and decay, creating works which trap and translate moments into physical forms. Through my multi-disciplinary practice, I am striving to develop a system that will allow me to approach cartography, human movement in the desert – particularly the mountainous landscapes of the UAE – and methods of mark-making found in these areas. 

At the intersection of these areas of investigation, I have found boundaries. I have begun to reflect on certain functions dictated by humans, the inherent transience of natural landscapes and the velocity of such transience. In 2016, this research culminated in ‘Markings’, a series using screen printing, textile dying, sculptural installation and photography to respond to and record the findings of this research. 

Journeying repeatedly on a route from Melaiha to Kalba (Sharjah), I recorded eight locations where murals of various dimensions have been applied to the mountainsides. I found these elaborate displays of pride and belonging provocative – what is the rationale that goes into their creation? How have these irreversible acts come about? 

These journeys were juxtaposed with research into Mohammed Kazem’s work. Two works, in particular, had certain resonances with this line of investigation: ‘Photographs with a Flag’ (1997) and ‘Scratches on Paper’ (2014). I have used geo-tagging and a “bystander stance” in my research and practice before, these positions are shown in ‘Photographs with a Flag’. The performative nature of the other artwork also engaged me. Both works had a repetitiveness to them, and I adopted this mode. I also revisited the time when Kazem was making these works, understanding them to be about certain anticipated changes that were taking place in the country in the 90s. I wanted to highlight that these changes have been effected, emphasising their permanence. 

By documenting the mountain markings between Melaiha and Kalba, I have recorded acts that perform irreversibility. Recording these modified surfaces, altered by the human hand, I want to expose the impossibility and irrevocability of returning to the original – gesturing at the idea that, once change has been made, we can never recover the original.

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Maitha Abdalla

As if harnessing the subconscious, Maitha Abdalla's work oscillates between the diaphanous, vibrant and surreal, and is always marked by an atmosphere of reminiscence and nostalgia. Often evolved into series articulating strong cultural narratives, her paintings and mixed media works are assemblages of memory, travel and human interactions. Informed by exchanges and experiences, her socially driven commentaries on the human condition reveal astute, intuitive observations on the world around her. A particularly influential encounter was with the children of a Turkish orphanage, where Maitha taught English and art. The motifs of childhood began to permeate her work after this time, becoming an eloquent vernacular in which she further explores the difference between the imaginary and the real; mapping the liminal space between these interconnected worlds, she plays out many questions of social and cultural identity.

Born in Sharjah, Maitha studied English language at Middlesex University. It was through art and design courses in London that she discovered her interest in the visual arts. She went on to gain a BA in visual arts from the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University.  

Maitha is the recipient of the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally.

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Shaikha Al Mazrou

Through perpetual experimentation, Shaikha Al Mazrou brings together motifs from different artistic movements to explore ideas of formality. Tensions between modes are made manifest in the play of form and volume, surface and void, material and concept.

Her sculptural explorations are simultaneously light-hearted and serious and her artistic vocabulary combines elements from her studies to realise ironic, critical works that reference significant artistic movements. Her works echo with the history of sculpture, abstraction and contemporary art, yet they transcend genre and defy easy categorisation.

Al Mazrou was born in the UAE and received her Master’s in 2014 from the Chelsea College of Fine Art, University of the Arts London. She previously studied at the College of Fine Arts and Design, University of Sharjah where she is currently a sculpture lecturer. She has taken part in residency programmes at the Delfina Foundation in London in collaboration with Tashkeel and in Bastakiya, Dubai with Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

In 2014, Al Mazrou was one of five international artists commissioned by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture to produce a public artwork at the Jalila Cultural Centre for Children in Dubai as part of ‘Make Art Possible’. She is represented by Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai and lives and works in the UAE.

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Nujoom Al Ghanam

Nujoom Alghanem is an Emirati poet, artist, scriptwriter and multi- award-winning film director. She was born in Dubai in 1962, has published eight poetry collections and produced eleven films including five short fictions and six feature length documentaries. Her films have won local, regional and international prizes. She is the founder of Nahar Productions, a film production company based in Dubai and a professional trainer in filmmaking and creative writing.

Nujoom has published eight poetry collections as well as produced and directed more than twelve feature films. Some of those are fiction, some are documentaries.

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Abdullah Al Saadi

Abdullah Al Saadi’s work ranges from painting, drawing and the creation of lengthy artist’s notebooks to the collection and systemic categorisation of found objects and the invention of new alphabets. A great affinity with nature and rural life informs his practice, which explores the changing environment as well as personal and cultural history.

He is a graduate of the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, and holds a BA degree in English Literature. From 1994 to 1996 he studied Japanese painting at Kyoto Seika University in Japan.

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Fatima Albudoor

As an artist and traveller, Fatima Albudoor uses printmaking to combine writing, drawing and photography. This layered aesthetic is as much a combination of mediums as it is a palimpsest of thoughts, feelings and memories. Her faded images appear ghost-like, hovering just beyond the tangible here and now, as if emissaries from past experiences and past worlds. She becomes a cartographer mapping the passage of time and the flight of feelings. Poignant yet strident, her speculative documents of impermanence echo with the past. Her works consider the composition of life and are infused with caught transient traces of shifting social ephemera.  

Born in Dubai, Fatima is a UAE national who has lived and studied in Dubai, Boston, London and Dublin. She received a BFA in Studio Art from Northeastern University in Boston, USA.  Fatima’s work has been exhibited in Art Dubai and DIFC Art Nights, as well as in exhibitions in Abu Dhabi, Boston and Venice. She is a graduate of the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship (2016) and currently lives and works in Dubai, where her studio is based.

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Muhanad Ali

Muhanad Ali is a cultural producer, writer and curator. He was Arts Centre Manager & Curator, DUCTAC, Dubai. A Cultural Leadership International Programme grantee (2010), Muhanad earned his BA in English Literature at Damascus University (2002). Previously, Muhanad was a Project Manager at Art Dubai and went on to co-manage and curate Dubai Culture’s SIKKA Art Fair (2013). He headed the Artistic Production department at Damascus Opera House (2010) where he co-produced over 15 performances and festivals. As regular contributor to many Arabic newspapers, Muhanad mainly focuses on the changes in the GCC arts scene in the light of the rise and fall of Middle Eastern cities. He founded the East/East-East platform (2015) which comprises a series of exhibitions focusing on dialogues between artists from the geographical East.

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Amal Alkhaja

Repetition is a recurrent motif in Amal Alkhaja’s practice, both aesthetically through marks and use of material, and as a creative act as she makes and remakes pieces. Through installations, paint and experiments in diverse media, she feeds her practice with personal experiences and the observations she makes through her perennially curious preoccupation with people watching.

She graduated in 2013 from Zayed University with a BA in Fine Arts. Her work was recently exhibited at ‘Community and Critique’ exhibition in Abu Dhabi, 'Ramdanization' at DUCTAC, Sikka Art Fair and the UAE Fine Arts Society Annual Exhibition. Her work was also exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2011. 

In 2012, Amal was awarded second place in the Fine Arts category in the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award. She was a fellow in the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship. She is currently working to develop her practice with a focus on art therapy and education. 

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Maya Allison

Maya Allison is founding Director of the Art Gallery and Chief Curator at New York University Abu Dhabi. Her background is also in academic museums, including at the RISD Museum (Rhode Island School of Design) and Curator at the Bell Gallery (Brown University). She was also director of the city-wide, international new media showcase Pixilerations and of the 5 Traverse Gallery, both in Providence, RI, USA. She holds an MFA from Columbia University, a BA in art history from Reed College, and was awarded a research fellowship on curatorial practices at Brown University’s Center for Public Humanities.

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Tawqa Alnaqbi

In transformative metaphoric acts, Tawqa Alnaqbi translates experiences, moments and memories into delicate cyphers vibrantly invested with life. These are acts of remembrance, an effort to savour and record the transient. Each is an attempt to engage with culture, to instigate a dialogue of hand-made things instilled by her emotions and observations about her home.   

Each artwork also meditatively ruminates on the process of making itself; every element of her practice articulates memories. In both materiality and symbolism, she crafts an elegant symphony of synthesis which retains the past while proposing and producing something new. For example, her fibrous hand-crafted papers expose their laborious composition in their raw finishing. The paper itself is the signifier of documentation, the stuff of diaries, notebooks and letters, and hers are constructed from the fibres of her family’s clothes. In this way, as the new object is woven from the past, its very materiality becomes infused with personal identity, memory and experience. Her papers are signifiers of recollection, celebratory creative gestures which reify the past and revel in the act of making.  

Born in Khorfakkan, Taqwa now lives and works in Sharjah city. She completed a BA in Fine Arts at the College and Fine Arts and Design, University of Sharjah. She has exhibited internationally and regionally including in ‘Art Nomad – Made in the Emirates’, Germany 2016; Budapest Art Market, Hungary, 2015; ‘Visions of the Future’, Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Abu Dhabi and as part of the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award, Dubai.

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