Almaha Jaralla at Tabari Artspace
Tabari Artspace announces Seham, the solo exhibition of emerging Emirati artist, Almaha Jaralla. Jaralla’s mixed media works on canvas pioneer new notions of the conventional portrait. For Jaralla, architecture is, for example, a concrete portrait of a society, one that offers her endless sources of inspiration. For her first solo exhibition at Tabari Artspace, Almaha Jaralla invites the audience to join her on a journey through Abu Dhabi’s constructed and social worlds from the 1980s until the present day.
The visual artist has created a series of mixed media artworks on canvas for Seham, which deviates from their own family portraits from the 1980s taken in Abu Dhabi. Jaralla believes that these portraits provide a glimpse into the heart of the city during a time of rapid social and physical transformation in the Gulf. The artworks capture the familial dynamics of that period, where parks and beaches were important physical spaces that influenced the community and where large family outings were commonplace. The artist suggests that the pre-digital era was a time when personal contact, group activities, and inter-generational bonds were more prevalent than the individualism that is seen today. By highlighting the evolution of the city, Jaralla’s work establishes a connection to the past while also emphasizing the dramatic changes that have taken place.
One of the artworks focuses on the Al Maqtaa Bridge in Abu Dhabi and represents a connection between the past and present, tradition and modernity. The Al Maqta Bridge was constructed in 1968, and it was the first structure that linked Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland. Before the bridge, residents of the island had to wait for low tide before crossing to the mainland. The construction of the bridge was a significant turning point, as it greatly improved transportation links and connected Abu Dhabi to the rest of the UAE. The artist reflects upon this pivotal moment in the city’s development in their artwork.
“This particular exhibition takes my aunt, Seham’s, name as the title in tribute to her influence. The exhibition explores Abu Dhabi’s geographic topography and the transformations that have taken place over time, from the perspective of a personal journey. By using the name “Seham” and its translation “Arrows” in the title, I aim to convey the direction and movement associated with arrows. The title also serves to connect a personal journey with the wider context of the city’s transformation over time.” – Almaha Jaralla, 2023
The oil paintings in the exhibition are created on unconventional canvases made by the artist using traditional men’s garments called Maawaz, which originate from Aden. This demonstrates the artist’s intention to emphasise the cultural and historical significance of Yemeni heritage. The patterns and textures of the Maawaz add a unique visual element to Jaralla’s paintings, creating an interesting interplay between traditional and modern aesthetics. In addition to the 2-dimensional works, the gallery space has been transformed into an immersive setting where visitors can sit and reflect on the significant changes that have affected the region over the decades. This allows visitors to engage with the exhibition in a more interactive and contemplative manner.
About The Artist
Almaha Jaralla is a conceptual artist from Abu Dhabi who uses painting and photography to create personal portraits of living environments. Her work focuses on the modern history of her local surroundings, particularly the local architectural style and how it has evolved over time. Jaralla draws inspiration from her own documentary photography and archival materials to explore the complex sociocultural dynamics and ancestral histories that have shaped her lived experience. She uses color theory to convey individual and collective identities, and her art often raises questions about identity in both personal and societal contexts.
“I am influenced by the strangeness that I observe in notions of community, specifically the one I grew up in. My work throws up questions surrounding architecture, gendered standards and expectations and the significance of reputation within the local context. My paintings and photographs form an attempt to charter and unpack my subjective identity against the backdrop of the collective one.
I employ methods commonly used in documentary photography to capture and better know that which surrounds me – neighbourhood homes and alleyways – as my own form of extrospection.
My research negotiates the local architectural vernacular. I understand constructed environments as highly personal portraits. I am preoccupied with the dualities of the public/private and the standards, functions and aesthetic qualities that contribute to the local homes that I encounter every day.” – Almaha Jaralla
Seham A Journey Through Abu Dhabi, Almaha Jaralla
Location: Tabariartsace, DIFC Dubai
Duration: 4 May – 1 September 2023