The Heavenly Bodies series combine Awartani’s research into both talismans and Enchanted squares, in particular an investigation into how they were created, used and their spiritual significance. Each of the central squares (from 3 to 9 squared) are affiliated with one of the seven classical planets, a day in the week and an angel – they were also once regarded as a form of protection as well as a source of higher spiritual knowledge through numerology. These works, created using traditional methods and pigments, are structured based on the first square, which sits at the top right of the work and holds the code to deciphering which planet has been illustrated.
Where once these coded paintings might have been used as designs for weavings on clothes, here they work as illuminations, with each of the seven works exploring form, pattern, numerology and mysticism, functioning almost as a manifestation of the artist’s explorations into the threads of divination in ancient Islam. By bringing these early practices into a contemporary and increasingly globalized context triggers questions surrounding the possible reversion to more instinctive rituals along with possible reinterpretations of the Qu’ran.
The direct translation of Kul is ‘all’ or ‘everything’. However, the connotation of the word Kul in the Arabic language is so much more complex in its all-encompassing meaning and implication of infinity. This meaning is compounded by the artist’s technique of calligraphically depicting the word Kul repeatedly, so that it resembles an endless ripple effect.
The impression of never-ending repetition is not merely a reflection of God’s abundance on Earth, but an indication to look both further, and deeper, to penetrate the mere appearance and surface of things, to discover the hidden messages that all aesthetic creation hold.
Once, we thought the atom was the smallest particle, before we discovered that it was made of numerous smaller ones, as we once thought that the extent of our universe was the Milky Way Galaxy, before we discovered that there were hundreds of billions more galaxies out there. As God’s creation is infinite, and while we can say or write the word ‘infinite’ easily, it is impossible to imagine as it extends far beyond the human brain’s capacity for comprehension. Therefore, if one thinks of Kul too deeply or for too long, they might realize that it doesn’t exist; there is no ‘all’ or ‘everything’.
Five structured, diagrammatic memories are both a moment of the past made contemporary and blueprints which map methods of remembering. In ‘Re-proposing The Memory’ Hazem Harb presents the third instalment of a series in which he plots playful alternative approaches to the enduring presence of collective memories.
The series uses archival images and objects, the ephemera and residue from a shared Palestinian past, as tools for pro-active intervention and transformation of history.
‘Beyond Memory’ and ‘The everlasting presence of an excluded memory’ posited found materials as repositories of past impressions, objects which could be transformed. ‘Re-proposing the Memory’ interrogates the very existence of the memory, creating new imagined objects, plans which establish memory as process, deconstructing and repurposing how it exists.
With the pared back, utilitarian purity of a modernist building, these five memories assert themselves as contemporary. Giving rise to a sense of memory as data, plans foist the records catalogued by each into a current, present moment, shedding ostensibly nostalgic aesthetics to insist relevance and functionality.
These are not photographs, their edges jutting beyond the confine of the frame, nudging into the realm of the 3-dimensional. The implied structure instigates an encounter with the past, departing from the idea of the archival as an aide-memoire or even an assemblage. These are newly forged objects, displaced from the past through an engaged process of transformation. With the physicality of an encounter, one which exists and is shaped by time and space, these memories incongruously exist right now. The sense of encounter gives rise to an opportunity for dialogue. Yet, even in these evolved objectified moments, memory made current, the fragmented, faulty structures are revealed.
Harb becomes an archeologist and architect of the past, providing directions compiled with the meticulous and attentive care of an engineer. What is re-proposed here is a new process. Emphasising the durational, mutable quality of memory, Harb demonstrates the flux of remembering, creating a contemporary catalyst where he “gives birth to something, which gives birth to something”.
The artist created the work during a period of his life in which he had experienced the trials and tribulations of separation, and there after divorce. Exploring his emotional state with a series of work that depict the anxiety, frustration and confusion he had experienced during this time.
Traces of lives, memories, architecture, animals, culture and a plethora of notions are continuously re-imagined byway of engaging in dialogue with the earth. The traces imbedded into the soil could be understood as something that undercuts a clear opposition between the presence of notions taking form and their absence. It suggests that with these traces, something always remains to present narratives for a myriad of occurrences that had taken place.
In this work, the artist creates replicas of blocks or sections of earth that have been extracted from the ground. The work examines the sections as objects that bare witness to all time, and attempts to translate its contents, or debris, as fragments of a parallel language.
The particles are symbols that communicate the history of everything that has transpired on its surface, and deep within its layers. The particles of the blocks, and the sections themselves create a timeline of occurrences that are continuous and inseparable. The sections as a whole create a formidable yet harmonious body of work that depicts the earth in its truest form.
Taking every one of the 18 countries across the MENA region’s declaration of independence, the artist have decoded and recoded them into their own individual and respective digital QR code, which she have in turn embroidered onto panels of Egyptian cotton. Declarations of independence are proclamations that a given state and it’s nation are officially sovereign and ‘free’. The official dates are interesting when thinking about changes pre and post that mark, and whether any of them are indeed significant. What does it mean to truly be independent? Are any of these nations any more independent now than they were before such declarations? The fact that they were granted independence and not taken it themselves reflects masked power dynamics that have never truly dissolved.
The decoding and recoding of language is of particular interest. In today’s world, digital media has shaped not only our current state by democratizing and empowering from the bottom up, but it has also rewritten our language as means of communication. Each embroidered panel represents a declaration of independence respective to each country, translated into its own individual QR code. As each panel is hand embroidered, the lines, colour and textures are not as sharp and uniform as if it were digital, consequently making it impossible to successfully scan and read. Ironically, when brought back to the original means of communication, through the hand stitch, something gets lost in translation and new age media becomes redundant. By extension, the declarations become redundant, not only a physical level, but also on a conceptual one where their significance remains void in today’s world.
Counter Acts is representative of a practice that ranges over photography, painting, video, sculpture, and installation. Anading’s projects are characterized by a distinctive perspective on and measured intervention in social phenomena. Scouring public space for his materials, he utilizes the ordinary and banal, responding subtly but immediately to his environment. As in his interventions, Anading’s engagement with the subjects of the Anonymity series is fleeting. In another notable work Light suffers if there is no place to fall from (2007) Anading set up a neon light in the shape of a mousetrap at Finale Art Gallery in Manila. As viewers at the opening of the exhibition gathered around the structure, taking it for the artwork, Anading, standing behind them, surreptitiously photographed his audience enthralled in the act of looking. In this work, as in Counter Acts, medium and subject are exchanged in a canny reversal, resulting in not just an image or a representation, but also in a conceptual act.
The Scroll of The Prophets, Awartani takes the names of all 25 prophets mentioned in the Qu’ran and translates them back to their numerical value using the Abjadia. She then constructs a geometric pattern for each prophet, layering the circles, squares, stars, triangles and hexagonal forms, placing one character (or individual) next to the other in a long scroll. Awartani uses these systems to allow physical manifestations of the prophets in an attempt to transcend the limitations placed on representational forms in Islam, bringing to the fore questions of idol worship.
In this system, each letter in the Arabic alphabet is given a numerical value, giving each name its own unique sum.
This body of work began as an exploration of censorship in Saudi Arabia and it's effects on visual communication. While there is a lack of consistency from region to region, overall, images are highly scrutinized and controlled. Some superficial examples of this would be skirts lengthened and sleeves crudely added with black markers in magazines or blurred out faces on billboards.
These works are still, and will most likely remain, incomplete. Inspired by traditional Mashrabiya, tooled wooden screens traditionally separating the private and public spaces in Islamic Architecture, they are about many things. They revel in the ‘in between’; photography and drawing, public and private space, Representation and abstraction, obscuring and revealing. Weather they transcend or trespass, these are about the lines we draw, and the spaces in between.
Ayman Yossri Daydban
Danaia Al Saleh
Jowhara Al Saud
Nasser Al Salem
Zahra Al Ghamdi
PRESENTING AT AL SERKAL AVENUE:
Zahrah Al Ghamdi