Michael Rice’s artwork.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The current show at Total Arts at Courtyard, Dubai, titled “Second Life” (Jan. 9 — Mar. 9), is an exhibition of repurposed objects, artworks and installations, displayed in the new space of Total Arts. It marks the second life of the former furniture store at the Courtyard.
“Second Life” acts as a reminder to reconsider our surroundings from space to materials, and act on them to serve a better purposeful function visually and conceptually.
The exhibition contains artworks and design objects of various sizes, addressing environmental consciousness, preservation and sustainability as their focal point, whether in the choice of medium or concept.
It also encompasses the artist’s connection with natural resources and life forms.
It is visible in “Murmur”, a light installation by Grace Yacoub, using native tree branches from the UAE, which are lit to emphasise the real effect of light creating shadows, while shedding light on the native trees from the UAE; in the work of Shahad Shehail and Hala Kaiksow, who have adapted woven palm ropes, crochet and date pits in their work, celebrating date palms which play an important role in the cultural and historical identity of the Gulf Region and in the outdoor sculpture by Azza Al Qubbaisy, made of recycled cast aluminum, a homage to the Ghaf tree, which is a historic and cultural symbol of stability and peace in the UAE’s desert environment.
Shaqayeq Arabi found her raw and natural material from her immediate surroundings, the remains of plant life from Courtyard’s garden (home to Total Arts and the artist’s studio), to create her site-specific installation “And there were Gardens…..”
From the real fragments of plants to abstract representation of flora fauna and natural geometry that emerge from Michael Rice’s ceramics, to the holistic attitude of Fereydoun Ave’s practice toward the energy of cycles that occur in the season, the exhibition brings the artists together in dialogue with each other and with the exhibition space.
Dariush Zandi’s dramatic black and white photographs of dhows shot in 1983 displayed on the second floor, is the continuation of the majestic and inspiring boat — ironically displayed on top of an existing water fountain.
It sends its greetings as one steps into the exhibition, a haunting memory of what once was, and the subsequent retrieval and preservation of items discarded and otherwise forgotten.
The theme of the exhibition is mirrored in the space. It has been refashioned as an art gallery, while the essence of architecture, craftsmanship and meticulously designed former furniture store, have been respected and preserved to not only maintain collective memory, but to enhance the relationship with former and new visitors.
This relationship is embraced by artists Hessa Al Suwaidi and Rashed Qurwash, in their experimental project of pattern mapping. The patterns were extracted from the space and made by utilising natural dyes, textile and folding techniques.
Similarly, Yasmin Sinai has used patterns of wallpapers in her paper-mache sculptures of butterflies. The use of architectural elements is visible in the patterns and motifs, as seen in the video installation by Hind Demaithan “I am she who I was or will be”, presented in a mashrabiya window frame, and integrated into the architecture of the space.
Diane Mehanna, also explores the purpose of a place of memory. Through her photographic installations,The Seven Lives of Beit Beirut, she reflects on the multiple lives of the building, questioning the repercussions of intended or unintended architectural transformations on the meaning of a place.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Total Arts and Hamzat Wasl Studio, a design studio based at the Courtyard.
Total Arts has been co-founded by Zandi and Arabi. Zandi brings 45 years of design, planning, art, photography and travelling experience to the Middle East.
Drawing from a geographically and culturally diverse background, he has made contributions to major design and planning disciplines, including parks and recreational facilities, historic restorations and environmental conservation projects.
He completed his education in architecture, urban design, film and photography in the United States, where he started his professional career in 1972, associating with names such as Claude Samton & Partners, as well as Andrew McNair and Peter Eisenman of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies.
He was introduced to projects in Dubai through Jordanian firm Jafar Tukan and Partners, and moved there in the early 1980s, where he spent 14 years working as a Senior Architect and Town Planner for Dubai Municipality.
An accomplished photographer, his photos can be found in corporate collections and international advertising campaigns. He has also published multiple books and collaborated in many others.
Arabi is a painter and sculptor who lives between Tehran, Dubai and New York City. Starting to paint and practice calligraphy in the early 1990s, she received her Bachelor in Graphic Design from Al-Zahra University Tehran, a BFA from University of Valencinnes, France and an MFA from Sorbonne University, Paris.
For her, art is a form of spontaneous personal expression, as well as an exploration of her past and present memory. She finds her point of departure in image, sound and smell, as well as the sensitivity of the surrounding environment.
Arabi has had exhibitions in the Middle East, North America and Europe.
Total Arts is one of the first dedicated spaces to art in Dubai and the first gallery in the Al Quoz Industrial area. Established in 1992, it exhibits works of art from a variety of cultures and continents.
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