UAE-based artist Cristiana de Marchi’s show concludes at Maraya Art Centre - GulfToday

UAE-based artist Cristiana de Marchi’s show concludes at Maraya Art Centre

Maraya Art Centre is located in Sharjah.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Maraya Art Centre, the non-profit creative initiative under Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) which supports emerging and established artists in the region, has concluded (Aug. 4) the first institutional solo exhibition by Italian-Lebanese artist Cristiana de Marchi, who has been based in Dubai since 2006.

Often known in the region for her curatorial, editorial as well as poetic work, the exhibition presented an overview of her previously not-yet-displayed works. It shone a light on her artistic practice that stems from labour-intense compositions addressing themes of global relevance, and contrasts notions of individuality with collective experiences of belonging to countries and nationalities.

The title of the exhibition, Finer: A thread… in the Swell of Wandering Words, related to a verse by the German-Romanian post-World War II poet Paul Celan published in 1955, from the poem Speak, you too. Celan was one of the major German-language poets of the post-World War II era.

The poem addresses the human ability to rise from fall through the power of language, conveying that there is a possibility for recovery, after experiencing existential threats. It is as though human capability, after disappearing like a thread into the heights, only came back with full force! “But now the place shrinks, on which you stand Whereto now, shadow-stripped one, whereto? Climb.

Cristiana-de-Marchi Cristiana de Marchi’s works address fundamental human rights.

Feel yourself upwards. Thinner you become, unrecognisable, finer! Finer: a fathom along which it wants to descend, the star: to swim down below, below where he sees himself swimming: in the swell of wandering words.” The exhibition took the poem as a starting point to address both creation and destruction, and the many nuances of their interplay with each other.

The word “thread” in the poem also pointed out the artist’s main material offered in the exhibition — yarns in various colours, used in different techniques and onto multiple two and three dimensional surfaces.

Elevating the medium of needlework that is often associated with the feminine domestic and crafts-based realms, the artist re-positioned it as a highly versatile and contemporary artistic medium in its own right. The works had a contemporary look to them, not least by way of their minimalistic and often monochrome appearance.

Cristiana de Marchi’s works also originate from a felt plea for equality and justice. Principled and committed to moral accountability, they address fundamental human rights, laws of different countries and the circumstances under which they are given or denied.

For example, her newly created, labour intensive knitted piece approximating a 6.5 metre high wall, and as its extreme counterpart, the 2 x 2 metre smallest reported size of a prison cell, are just two examples of her exploration of spatial freedom and its denial.

Divided into four main sections, the show introduced de Marchi’s practice through her interactive and playful game-oriented works at the start. It was followed by serial works on stitched surfaces and knitted pieces addressing various subjects in the second part.

The third section contrasted the smaller scale works with the large Monument to the Fallen Wall and ended the exhibition, in a fourth section, with an outlook on the artist’s multi-media practice, including elements of light, brightness and a sense of hope.

“I am sincerely thankful to Maraya Art Centre for the opportunity they have offered me to show a survey of my artistic practice in a solo presentation at their venue,” de Marchi said. “Over the past 15 years, I have been an active member of the UAE art scene, with the extraordinary entry point of being associated as a curator and writer to The Flying House, since its very inception.

“I see this exhibition as a culmination of the path that I have so far accomplished as an artist in the UAE, where I have found a generous response to my internal dialogue, as well as a nurturing terrain for deeply delving in engaging conversations and creative dedication.”

Curated by Maraya Art Centre’s curator Cima Azzam, the exhibition also offered a public programme, video documentation and illustrated catalogue.

The bilingual Arabic/English publication featured an introduction by Maraya Art Centre’s director, Dr Nina Heydemann, an essay by Jill Magi, Associate Arts Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi, a Q&A with the artist in conversation with independent art editor and writer Nadine Khalil, a curatorial statement by Azzam as well as a summary of de Marchi’s stitching process, written by the artist herself.

Maraya Art Centre has also released films on the artist, which were shown in the exhibition. Cristiana de Marchi works with video and textiles as her privileged medium to explore issues related to identity, displacement, belonging and the porous borders that separate regions, while allowing contact.

Her work has been featured in Art Asia Pacific, Art Forum, Contemporary Practices, Artribune, Canvas, The Arts Newspaper, Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, The National, Gulf News, Gulf Today, Islamic Arts Magazine and L’Agenda Culturel among others, besides extensive mentions in the UAE’s Arabic press. She is a graduate of the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship.

Palestinian-Jordanian Azzam is the new curator at Maraya Art Centre. Previously, she had served as Creative Director of Meem Gallery and Exhibition Designer for Cuadro Gallery, both in Dubai.

She has several years of experience in exhibition planning and gallery design, and has collaborated on international projects including in Vienna, Austria, and Costa Rica. She holds a BFA in Visual Communication from the American University in Dubai. 

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