Jolaine Frizzell (left) and artist Jill Magi.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Warehouse421, the home-grown arts and design centre dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production across the region, announced the inauguration of visual artist and poet Jill Magi’s solo exhibition “The Weft in Pencil”, as part of Warehouse421 Artist Development Exhibition Program and in partnership with The Institute for Emerging Art (May 21 – eight weeks onwards).
On the opening night, Magi and Jolaine Frizzell came together to discuss abstraction in art and its political resonances. Frizzell is the Director of The Institute for Emerging Art, Dubai.
She has a BA in Art History and BFA degree in Photography, and post graduated with an MA in Art History from the University of Western Ontario. In 2015, she relocated to Dubai.
Additionally, Warehouse421 is also hosting the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Art and Media programme and unveiled its first-ever exhibition titled In Process|In Progress, showcasing projects and artworks from the first-year MFA students of NYUAD inaugural class of 2023, with participating artists Mahra Alfalahi, Majd Alloush, Liane Al Ghusain, Elizabeth Dorazio and Fabiola Chiminazzo. There was a talk accompanying the exhibitions on May 28.
After publishing her last book “Sample Book Pages 1-17” in 2019, Magi felt a strong desire to work with colour, shapes and paint.
She also craved larger works and felt stifled by the probably limited spaces of the book page and computer screen. At around the same time, and as a weaver, she began studying the technique of African strip-weaving and the grid patterns of those cloths.
She found their slight misalignments and unpredictable colour combinations, beautiful and inspiring. The artworks in “The Weft in Pencil” are rooted in these desires, inspirations and in Magi’s study of textiles.
She came to see the grid or matrix — the intersection of warp and weft, the editorial grid of the page and the patterns made by weavers — as an immensely generative space rooted in the textile arts.
“The Weft in Pencil” exhibition takes its title from the poem “The Annotated ‘Here’” by Marjorie Welish, a poet who is also a painter and teacher.
At the end of the poem, Welish mentions the kind of attention that allows for us to be present, in “the here of actual space.”
She writes: “A parallelism/of focus and of setting out/permitted us this facility.” With all of life’s struggles and challenges, Magi found comfort in the idea that both “focus” and “setting out” are possible at the same time or in parallel.
It reminded her of what it means to make art and particularly, to weave: sitting at the loom with utmost focus as the cloth “sets out” and grows, creating something brand new.
Poet, critic, and visual artist Welish studied at the Art Students League of New York and earned a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from Vermont College and Norwich University.
She has been described as “playfully and fiercely philosophical.” Her writing is far ranging in its concerns; architecture, grammar, modernity, cultural history, science and mathematics and much else coalesce in her work to form a kind of “adamant geometry.”
Magi works in text, image, and textile. The author of six books of poetry and numerous handmade books and book-arts objects housed at the University at Buffalo Poetry Collection, she ran Sona Books for ten years, publishing chapbooks of experimental works that she described as “risky, quiet, and community-based.”
Her most recent book, SPEECH (Nightboat 2019), is set in a city of middles: something like the Middle East and something like the Midwest of the US, where the fictional wanderer who navigates these places resides in a female body of middle age.
Her other full-length books of poetry are LABOR, SLOT, Cadastral Map, Torchwood and Threads, all published by small presses dedicated to innovative and experimental literature. Magi has had residencies with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Brooklyn Textile Arts Center, and has taught for more than twenty years at research universities, liberal arts colleges, in MFA and BFA programmes, and in community-based adult literacy programs. Most recently she was appointed to the faculty of the literature and art programmes at New York University Abu Dhabi.
She has had solo exhibitions of visual work at the NYU Abu Dhabi Project Space Gallery, Tashkeel and Grey Noise, and has been included in group shows in numerous galleries, including Tashkeel, Apex Art, the Brooklyn Arts Council and the Brooklyn Textile Arts Center. In 2011, she was named as among the 50 most inspiring authors in the world by Poets & Writers Magazine, and she is a co-founder, along with Shamma Al Bastaki and Sarah AlMehairi, of JARA Collective, a publishing project based in the UAE.
Warehouse421 is located in Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi, dedicated to emerging creative practitioners and those who want to access art and harness it as an agent for inquiry, education and growth. Inaugurated in 2015, it sees the creative process as a lens for observation, questioning, critique and interpreting life, while acknowledging that this includes a practice of risk-taking, sharing, thinking, reflecting, dialogue and understanding.
Putting education at the forefront of culture, it champions the acquisition of knowledge and aims to support the next generation of innovative thinkers, researchers and practitioners, who are engaged with the country and the region.
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