Five Shows to See During Art Dubai

From a solo show inspired by military ship camouflage at Lawrie Shabibi to a group show with a focus on artists from Iran at Jossa by Alserkal

BY Nadine Khalil in Critic's Guides , Exhibition Reviews | 02 MAR 23

‘Notations on Time’

Ishara Art Foundation

18 January – 20 May

Haroon Mirza, Light Work xlix (detail), 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Ishara Art Foundation; photograph: Ismail Noor/Seeing Things

Featuring work by 20 artists from South Asia and the diaspora, this group show presents interpretations of time that run the gamut from non-linear concepts to cataclysmic events which punctuate history. Soumya Sankar Bose offers a poignant re-enactment of West Bengal’s 1979 Marichjhapi massacre in photographs of darkness, death and fire (Where the Birds Never Sing, 2017–20), while Aziz Hazara’s film Monument (2019) zooms in on a long interminable moment of time via billowing banners in an improvised memorial to the 40 young victims of an ISIL suicide bombing in Afghanistan. The kaleidoscopic visuals in Mariah Lookman’s two-channel video Night Song (2015) are paired successfully with graphite streaks on carbon paper by her late mentor, Lala Rukh (Mirror Image II, 2011). Amid field recordings of eagle calls and birdsong, Lookman poses questions as to how deep listening impacts our recognition of colours. In the upper gallery, Haroon Mirza’s room-sized meditative installation, Light Work xlix (2022), seems to provide an answer. It maps a colour-coded temporal flow across the floor, modulated at a 111Hz frequency to emit white light.

‘Another Birth’

The Mine

26 February – 13 March

Atefe Moeini, Untitled, 2018, 100 × 90 cm. Courtesy: the artist 

Founded by Sanaz Askari in 2013, The Mine started out as a physical art space showcasing experimental art practices from Iran and the wider region, before becoming a nomadic curatorial project in 2018. Askari’s Dubai comeback, ‘Another Birth’ – a tightly curated pop-up exhibition at Jossa by Alserkal of 19 Iranian artists – is inspired by the title of a poem by feminist writer and director Forough Farrokhzad. A rich showcase of practices from established, US-based artists like Ala Ebtekar and Hadieh Shafie converse with works by Tehran-based millennials including Farbod Elkaei. There are subtle references to the female gaze in Alishia Morassaei’s untitled 2018 canvas of a woman’s eye peeking out of a polka-dot dress and Parvin Shokri’s painting series ‘The Absence of Audience’ (2022), in which women are depicted with their backs to the viewer. Many of the photographic works have a surrealist inflection, from Atefe Moeini’s image of a schestnut mane of hair emerging from a cluster of leaves (Untitled, 2018) to Hannaneh Heydari’s lurid eyeball cradled by twigs (Voyeur, 2020). Without directly referencing the current revolution, ‘Another Birth’ successfully conveys how difficult it is to adequately encapsulate or visualize the Iranian condition.

Hayv Kahraman

The Third Line

6 February – 24 March

Hayv Kahraman, Mustache and beard brain axis, 2022, oil on panel, 1.7 × 1.7 m. Courtesy: the artist and The Third Line, Dubai

In ‘Gut Feelings: Part II’, Los Angeles-based Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman’s focus on otherness through a painterly treatment of skin and hair has relocated within the body to envisage embodied trauma through viscera. Running down the gallery wall in wine-coloured lines are the juices from an installation of jars of torshi – Persian fermented beetroot containing gut-beneficial bacteria. The work reflects the artist’s research into how we thrive on diversity, whether through foreign microbes or migrant populations. The chord-like intestines that sprout from the mouths of her signature, black-haired female protagonists, as in Neurobust No. 7 (2022), feel like mystical excavations coded with significance. Tentacular Eye Boobs (2023), for instance, is a squatting hairless figure, painted using torshi juice, whose fleshy, eye-lined tentacles dangle from her nipples, while the similarly squatting woman in Mustache and Beard Brain Axis (2022), in mirror image, playfully raises the edge of a black tangled organ to form wispy facial hair.

Daniele Genadry

Jameel Arts Centre

7 December 2022 – 14 May 2023

Daniele Genadry, Shimmer (cap canaille), 2022, installation view. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Daniella Baptista

The Artist’s Rooms at Jameel Arts Centre are dedicated to intimate solo exhibitions of artists in the Jameel collection. Currently, ‘Apparitions’ showcases Daniele Genadry’s studies on light, presented in a stunning scenographic collaboration with philosopher-architect Fares Chalabi. Through a cylindrical structure fitted with custom-made LEDs that blur the brightness of the paintings with an external, phosphorescent glow, a sense of suspension is created. Shimmer (cap canaille) (2022), for example, forms a wraparound view of sienna-tinged cliffs sequentially floating on a white sea. Adjacent are mountainous panoramas of varying degrees of visibility, one of which, Blind Light (2017), is visually disrupted by a vertical void akin to an overexposure or a glitch. Outside the cylinder are a group of smaller-scale pencil drawings on verdant, hand-painted wallpaper. Inspired by elements of Fra Angelico’s fresco Annunciation (c.1440–45), the wallpaper gestures towards a garden in a play on how we view the external world from within.

Timo Nasseri

Lawrie Shabibi

28 February – 28 April

Timo Nasseri, Atlas, 2022, acrylic and oil on canvas, 1.9 × 4 m. Courtesy: the artist and Lawrie Shabibi

Timo Nasseri’s first solo exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi, ‘All Borrow Their Light’, draws on a language of elemental symbols that marks a shift from the Islamic references normally prevalent in his work. While earlier pieces such as Epistrophy #8 (2017) reimagine ornamental muqarnas in mosque architecture, the optical flourishes and gradients of his new large-scale canvas Atlas (2022) have a flattened, digital quality, gesturing towards the reproducibility of its design. Derived from the Razzle Dazzle camouflage used by the British Navy during WWI (with conflicting stories behind its conception) the painting's geometric symbols take on 3D form in the beautifully rendered totem-like ‘Teardrop Vessels’ (2020–ongoing). The artist began the series during Beirut’s 2020 explosion as a ritual practice. Inspired by ancient mourning traditions, each of the textured, charcoal sculptures – 80 of which are on display at Lawrie Shabibi – contains a small, glazed trough in the shape of the artist’s finger for collecting tears.

Main image: Mojtaba Amini, from the series 'Tear in Town', 2020. Courtesy: the artist

Nadine Khalil is a writer, editor and researcher based in Dubai, UAE.