Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let's Talk - The Jam Jar

Engaging in a conversation requires that as a participant either we become active by responding, questioning, and sharing or on the flip side we become passively involved and simply listen. We ignore, we remain silent or indifferent. A conversation may spark emotion in an exchange of ideas or it may leave one feeling empty, like our time was wasted. At its best a conversation is a series of connections taking off from one topic and flowing into the next that invites the participants to push ideas further and learn from each other.

Let's Talk is an exhibition that invites the spectator to join in a conversation between five Pakistani artists as they respond to each other using interweaving sound and image. Let's Talk is a collaboration project between Grey Noise Gallery in Lahore and The Jam Jar in Dubai.

The central axis of Let's Talk is a small catalogue comprised of actual email exchanges between the artists during the planning phase of the exhibition. It serves as a point of entry into the origins of the conversation so that viewer may jump in and continue where the artists left off. Instead of eavesdropping on a private conversation, like a voyeur to the works exhibited, the emails offer a more complete picture of the tangents, the hanging ideas that have yet to be resolved by the artists themselves.

Each of the artists included in Let's Talk have utilized a diverse range of mediums in order to carry out their conversation. Ranging from miniature painting to new media and installation the communication or lack there of bounces from one artist to the next. Fahd Burki's subtle pieces speak through their silence. Ayesha Jatoi builds tension using text that evoques the sounds of ticking bomb down the length of a corridor resulting with a silent explosion using the word "Boom" and a Siya Kalam miniature painting. Ayaz Jokhio questions the life and death of text using a cluster of six small white graves each with a different book encased within. Mehreen Murtaza's red cube and multi-media prints explore the links between religion and science. Lala Rukh creates an interesting sound piece by incorporating sounds of nature, bird songs, political protest pertinent to the current situation in Pakistan and traditional music.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ayman Baalbaki @ Agial Gallery

Face masks, cagoules, kaffiyehs and gas masks are all symbolic images in themselves. They have been given meaning and/or significance by those that wear them, as well as those who see them. They may evoke fear , pride, humiliation depending on the individual. Associations of prisoners, militants, and Arab male identity all come to mind. Together they create a significant collective of the masculine veil.

Being a refugee and having to flee with little possessions. Momentoes left behind, taking only the essentials for a building a new life in a different place. All tightly wrapped together in a bundle.

The Arab man wrapped in a Kaffiyeh. It is an image of masculinity, an image of resistance, and of tradition. In this instance it is an image that has been given full reverence to the material covering the face. Yet he looks up. Possibly to Ursa Major, to the seven stars above. Icon worthy of veneration, the secular figure has been placed in a golden niche similar to that of a cult image. This is an Arab Man rendered sacred.

Skeletons of buildings abandoned by force. The spectator is transported to a place of massive destruction. Yet these buildings tell the tale of resistance. They remain standing, they bear the visual scars and they speak loudly of their ordeal. Hallowed out, disfigured buildings missing windows, exterior walls and those families that once called them home testify to the disproportion of the violence.They remain as monuments of struggle and resistance.

These are a selection of the different ways in which the most recent body of work by Ayman Baalbaki currently at Agial Art Gallery discusses issues of place and the singular experience of being. The collections of works reflects a personal investigation into issues of identity, gender and community.

Adult Comics - Samandal style

The Salamander is an amphibian that exists on land and water. It is the only animal among vertebrates that is capable of regenerating lost limbs. Like its namesake Samandal Comic Magazine aims to create a space where illustrators, artists, musicians, writers and performers are encouraged to experiment with language and image. The contents of the magazine are adaptable, fluid and flexible to match the individual styles of its contributers.

The brain child of 5 talented illustrators, artists, and writers The FDZ, Hatem Imam, Omar Khouri, Lena Merhej, Tarek Nabaa all based in Lebanon, Samandal is a tri-lingual quarterly comic magazine that highlights not only local but international talent as well. The fruit of their work remains underground, but continues to gain support from readers and critics a like.

Officially launched last March, the Samandal team takes an innovative approach to adult comics and picture stories produced in the Arab world. About to launch its 3rd issue, Samandal is gaining ever more popularity. It offers its readers a variety of different genres of comics in French, English and Arabic.

Contributing to Issue 0 of Samandal are Elyse Tabet, Omar Khouri, The FDZ, Hatem Imam, Mazen Kerbaj, Fouad Mezher, Lena Merhej, Farah Nehme, Barrack Rima, Isabelle Boinot and Andy Warner.

Currently Samandal is available for purchase in Lebanon, London, Berlin, Paris Dubai, Cairo and New York City at Forbidden Planet . Previous issues may also be downloaded from the website allowing for a wider readership.

Lena Merhej

Hatem Imam (below)

We look forward to seeing more from Samandal.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zena el Khalil - "Maybe One Day Beirut Will Love Me Back"

Binge Drinking, Mixed Media 69 x 180 cm (2008)

It is the absence of glue that binds

Beyond the glitter, the vibrant colors, the political propaganda, the Arabic pop cultural references and the knickknacks bought from Arout in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Zena el Khalil’s latest body of work takes her study of place one step further to include questions of structure and stability. She confronts an important issue concerning the physical production of art in a city as contradictory as Beirut. How can an artist work with materials of permanency when local forms political and socio-economic stability are non-existent?

Having long established her visual iconographic language, the pieces included in “Maybe one day Beirut will Love me Back” are ever more reflective of her artistic response to her environment. This current exhibition sees Zena creating smaller, personal sized, wall-mounted versions of pervious large-scale installations. When the question of adhesives arose, she persisted in a manner reflective of her environment: work with what is available. The practical solution to the structural issues Zena was looking to resolve came in the form of an ordinary household object used for arts and crafts: the pushpin.

The pushpin enables the pieces to transform, mutate and alter; mimicking the adaptability needed in order to inhabit a city where inconsistency is permanent. The inability to plan from month to month, week to week and even day to day is symbolized in her use of a moveable, more easily adjustable medium. The glue gun that has long been a staple in the construction of her previous work no longer carries the same significance. The choice of a precarious yet sturdy adhesive is in direct response to an existential need for more flexibility.

Delicate yet sharp, the pointed end of the pushpin pierces through the object, creating tiny holes. Several are used at a time in order to better hold objects in place. However, with the slightest disturbance, any force that removes the pins from their positions causes everything to fall creating a metaphor for the current cultural climate from which these pieces were born. As long as no one removes the pushpins, life goes on. Once the pushpins are removed, things immediately fall until one by one the pins are replaced in order for the rebuilding and reconstruction to start again.

- Christine O'Heron for the Exhibition Catalogue "Maybe One Day Beirut Will Love Me Back" currently in London at the Flawless Gallery from the 4th of October to the 19th of October