When I Count, There Are Only You ..., installation view.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
This autumn, Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) presents two thematic exhibitions that bring together newly acquired and rarely seen works from the SAF Collection, a public collection that has evolved since the establishment of the Foundation in 2009. Curated by Foundation Director Hoor Al Qasimi, the exhibitions, titled The Rain Forever Will be Made of Bullets and When I Count There Are Only You … respectively, draw their names and central themes from a work on display, honouring the artists and their collective vision. They are currently on view in the Foundation’s Al Mureijah Art Spaces, through October 1. The Rain Forever Will be Made of Bullets (July 24 – Oct. 1), takes its title from a work by Simone Fattal. It brings together works focusing on the struggles and wars that occurred in the respective participating artists’ home countries, through their exploration of artistic mediums and source materials.
Previously exhibited works by Etel Adnan, Fattal and Lala Rukh, join a selection of newly acquired sculptures and works on paper by Chaouki Choukini. Adnan’s Mount Tamalpais (2015), commissioned for Sharjah Biennial 12, is a work from a series of tapestries conceived in the 1970s that were inspired by the textures and colours of the Persian rugs of her childhood. Her other works on view in the exhibition demonstrate her subtle power as a colourist. Also on view are Lala Rukh’s Sand Drawings 1–4 (2010), exhibited in Sharjah Biennial 12, that reveal her engagement with the sea and horizon as well as her attendant philosophical preoccupations with time, infinitude and nonexistence.
An examination of socio-political conditions in the Middle East occurs in works like Zhat El Himma and Abdel Wahab (2006) by Fattal. Based on two legendary yet widely unknown heroes of the Sira, from an epic of the same name, the works were part of her solo exhibition in 2016 at SAF. On view for the first time are also a selection of sculptures, pencil drawings and watercolour paintings by Chauoki Choukini. Fattal was born in Damascus and grew up in Lebanon. She studied philosophy at the Ecole des Lettres of Beirut and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1969, she returned to Beirut and began painting. She participated in numerous shows during the ten years when life in Lebanon was still possible. In 1980, fleeing the civil war, she settled in California and founded the Post-Apollo Press, a publishing house dedicated to innovative and experimental literary work. In 1988, she returned to artistic practice by creating ceramic sculptures after enrolling at the Art Institute of San Francisco. Since 2006, she has produced works in Hans Spinner’s prestigious workshop in Grasse, France.
In 2013, she released a movie, Autoportrait, which has been shown worldwide in many film festivals. When I Count There Are Only You … (July 24 – Oct. 1) examines the role artists play in society by revealing the most intimate and personal details of their inner thoughts — leaving themselves open for public deliberation and interpretation.
The exhibition presents works by Farhad Moshiri, Farideh Lashai, Iman Issa, Mandy El Sayegh, Nari Ward, Prajakta Potnis, Rabih Mroué and Rasheed Araeen. El Amal (2011–2012) is a series by Lashai that offers a commentary on the Arab spring and is on view alongside works such as But When I Look, There is Only a Shadow and When I Count There are Only You ... (2012–2013). Commissioned by SAF, Kitchen Debate (2014) by Potnis brings together staged scenes of political diplomacy and the kitchen of the future. Also on view is Araeen’s I Love it, It Loves I (1979–1983) that studies the complex relation between geography, history, identity, performance and aesthetics.
Ward’s We the People (Arabic version) (2018) uses multi-coloured shoelaces to spell out an Arabic translation of ‘we the people’, a phrase taken from the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
Also on view are El Sayegh’s Boundary Work (2017), commissioned for Sharjah Biennial 13; Moshiri’s Golden Love Super Deluxe (2003) exhibited in Sharjah Biennial 6 and Issa’s project Material (2010–2011) exhibited in Sharjah Biennials 9, 12 and 13. Mroué, included in Sharjah Biennial 9 and 13, is represented by his work on paper Notebook 2010 #7 (2018). Also on view at SAF is Sharjapan 3 – Remain Calm: Solitude and Connectivity in Japanese Architecture (July 24 – Oct. 1), the third exhibition in a four-year series titled Sharjapan, curated by Yuko Hasegawa.
Remain Calm examines modern and contemporary architecture in Japan, exploring ideas that resonate powerfully when the pandemic has made staying at home the ‘new normal’, while disrupting individual connectivity to an outside world that seems fraught with challenges, risk and unknown possibilities. The SAF Collection reflects an ever-expanding range of art forms and visual culture, encompassing a diverse body of more than 1,300 works that span art movements from the 1920s to the present day.
It is anchored by acquisitions and commissions from more than two decades of the Sharjah Biennial, the Foundation’s year-round exhibitions and other core commissioning programmes. Reflecting Sharjah’s history as a major regional trade route, the Collection acts as a hub that connects cultures through modern and contemporary art. In addition to highlighting the breadth and range of the Foundation’s Collection, the exhibitions build on its work to shift the axis of art history towards a more inclusive, intergenerational and transcultural narrative through exhibitions, the Collection itself and programmes.
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