All posts tagged: middle east

Alienation and solitude as beautiful: Safwan Dahoul’s Dream series

Syrian-born Safwan Dahoul explores the physical and psychological effects of alienation and solitude in his figurative paintings. Born in 1961 in Hama, Dahoul’s ongoing Dream series is partially autobiographical. His work is thought to recreate a subconscious impetus towards drawing inwards that takes place during times of crisis, whether it be in mourning or political conflict. His contorted female protagonist, who is a recurring figure in the series, is freed from any known location. These ambiguous paintings are currently on show at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, until May 21st, 2016. Dahoul was initially trained by leading modernists at the University of Damascus before travelling to Belgium, where he earned a doctorate. He later became a prominent member of the Damascus art scene. Photo: From the Dream series. Safwan Dahoul. 180 x 200 cm. Acrylic on canvas 2015. © Safwan Dahoul. Photo courtesy of Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

The Arab world writ large: Walid Raad

New York’s MoMA is showing the first comprehensive American survey of the Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad (b. 1967). It features his work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance from the last 25 years. Raad’s work is informed by his upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war of 1975–91. His work is also preoccupied by the socioeconomic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in recent years. Two of Raad’s long-term projects are the main emphasis of the show: The Atlas Group (1989–2004) and Scratching on things I could disavow (2007–ongoing). The Atlas Group is a 15-year project exploring the contemporary history of Lebanon. In it, Raad produced a series of fictionalized photographs, videotapes, notebooks, and lectures that related to real events and research into audio, film, and photographic archives in Lebanon and elsewhere. In his ongoing work, Scratching on things I could disavow, Raad expands his focus to the wider Middle East. The work examines the recent emergence in the Arab world of new infrastructure for the visual arts, including art fairs, biennials, …

Candid tales

The Black Book of Arabia is a collection of candid tales about women’s lives across the Middle East, written by artist and entrepreneur Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi. These fantastical tales – of women falling in love, preparing to marry, going to university – are less conventional than they seem at first. They are filled with twists and surprises—and a whole gamut of characters from sultans to paupers to sorcerers. In one story, a princess is betrayed by a friend who literally tries to steal her wedding; in another, a jealous wife lures her husband into falling in love with another woman. These are universal tales that read simply, without literary pretension, as though the stories are being passed down to us by word-of-mouth. Their simplicity however reveals some emotional truths about the meandering paths we take through life. The Black Book of Arabia is published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (2015).