Images from The Ocean Refuses No River, a solo exhibition by Naz Shahrokh.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
XVA Gallery, Dubai, is currently presenting The Ocean Refuses No River, a solo exhibition by Naz Shahrokh, focusing on a series of mixed media studies made upon a surface, which originally was a map of the UAE. The two bodies of work in the exhibition derive from different chronologies within her practice, but share a central contextual significance opening conversations about life’s journey.
Ode to the Emirates (Seeking Nefertiti) is a series of mixed media studies, which originally was a map of the UAE. “I believe maps are not just two-dimensional pieces of paper depicting geographies, but are documents that contain untold stories of adventure, promise, memory and hope. “Indeed, aesthetically they are also beautiful in their own right.
Here, the map acts as the base for reconstructed, reimagined, and dissected narratives where the roads and the journey intertwine”. The practicality that the map recalls is at odds with the yet-to-be discoveries of the potential journey held in those roads. Like arteries, they bring about isolation in location, but lead to new horizons. As the map is deconstructed, the imagery depicted becomes less identifiable with the original surface, and components of it are spread across several works.
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The series On the Road (from then to now) are symbolic, combining journals and literature. The original source materials are used notebooks collected over time from her personal use and also from her daughter. “Congruent to a journal where a moment is depicted through the usage of words, an image also exists in that moment within our mind.
I am investigating the nature of memory and our futile attempts to crystalise it into solid form”, says Shahrokh. The additional sculptural objects in the exhibition reflect the continuous conversation she has within her practice of sharing narratives through collected parts. The Artist Palette Series is a conversation with the process of making objects through fragments, both in the active collection of things throughout the journeys and travels, as well as seeking particular materials to convey a personal meaning of a place and time.
Shahrokh has worked as an artist and educator internationally in the United States, Egypt and the UAE. She received a BFA and an MFA in Painting, and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, where she later taught Fine Arts and Art History from 1998-2008. She joined the faculty at the Performing and Visual Arts Department at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, in 2004-2006, and has been teaching at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, since 2008. She has exhibited her work internationally and awards for her work include the Change Inc. (the Rauschenberg Foundation) Grant, Captiva, FL, and the Artist-In-The-Marketplace Fellowship, the Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, TimeOut Abu Dhabi, the Connecticut Post, the Advocate and Greenwich Time, Contemporary Practices and ART PAPERS, and is included in private and public collections internationally.
Throughout her creative process and research, she investigates common challenges found within the environment with a focus of bringing out in tactile matter, experiences that are both pleasing to the eye as well as revealing. She is currently working on several projects connected to land art, where she is investigating the landscape of the UAE, as well as a body of work linked to Cartograph.
Due to her childhood travels and experience of different cultures, Shahrokh’s work has many rich and varied inspirations. Her inspirations include: Persian miniature painting, Land art and earthworks, Minimalism and Conceptual art and ephemeral Native American sandpainting. The majority of her materials are detritus, either synthetic or organic, or a combination of both. Through her work, she seeks to transform these disregarded and commonplace materials into something less ordinary. This deep connection with the natural environment is an important focus in her work.
She attempts to connect her studio practice with a commitment to making objects that are harmonious with the natural environment. Recycling and reducing waste has been a deep, international concern since the early 1990s, when Shahrokh first began to use recycled paper in her work.
As well as feeding her desire to be in harmony with her environment, it is also a form of her own personal conceptual problem solving. Within her studio practice she has collected many different forms of detritus, such as leaves, which she treats and uses as small, miniature canvases, or sticks, bottles and other objects, with which she forms large-scale, site-specific installations in the desert landscape. Much of Shahrokh’s works relates directly to her cultural roots, and artistic ‘conversations’ with the style and beliefs of other artists, such as Ana Mendieta and Joseph Beuys. XVA Gallery established in 2003, is one of the leading galleries in the Middle East that specialises in contemporary art from the Arab world, Iran and the Subcontinent. Exhibitions focus on works by the regions foremost artists as well as those emerging onto the scene. The gallery’s artists express their different cultural identities and perspectives while challenging the viewer to drop prejudices and borders. XVA Gallery exhibits both locally and internationally, collaborates with other galleries and participates in international art fairs.
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