In this issue, we go back to basics and review definitions of frequently (or infrequently) words in the art world while referencing art from the MENASA region. IN THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES, YOU’LL DISCOVER AN ALPHABETICAL LIST OF ART-RELATED WORDS PAIRED WITH ARTWORKS THAT BEST ILLUSTRATE EACH WORD’S MEANING. ALL WORKS ARE BY MIDDLE EASTERN ARTISTS WHO HAVE LEFT AN INDELIBLE IMPRINT UPON THE INTERNATIONAL ART SCENE.
With the proliferation of Islam stemming from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, figurative artistic traditions – most often paintings and sculptures representing living human and animal forms – profoundly influenced the development of Islamic art. Islamic resistance to figurative art soon followed, stemming from texts in the Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet) and several statements on the subject of figural depictions in the Quran, which is less specific, but condemns idolatry and uses the Arabic term musawwir (“maker of forms” or artist) as an epithet for God. As with other forms of ornamentation, however, figural motifs have been found on the surface decoration of objects and architecture for centuries, though less frequently in paintings and sculptures.
Typical of objects with a non-art function, found objects refer to utilitarian, manufactured or naturally occurring materials that have been re-appropriated for use in an artistic context. The term itself is derived from the French objet trouvé, meaning objects that have been modified or altered for use within a new cultural context, i.e., the gallery or the museum.
As one of the most preeminent figures of conceptual art in the UAE, Hassan Sharif is responsible for introducing an entire generation of artists to the importance of found objects in fine art practice. Incorporating also Fluxus influences into the weaving, knotting and threading of found objects, Sharif’s practice is often thought a critique of modern systems of mass production and consumption in Dubai and the UAE more generally.
Frottage refers to a rubbing technique whereby pencil, graphite, chalk, crayon or another medium is transferred onto a sheet of paper. The image then becomes that of the textured object or surface below, caused by the raised portions translated onto the surface of the paper. Born in 1983, in Achqout, Lebanon, Rayyane Tabet explores stories, social-political events and individual narratives through objects and drawings, some of which are informed by architecture and sculptures. In his series Orthostates (2017–), for example, Tabet examined a number of orthostats, upright stones or slabs forming part of a structure. Tabet explored the history and relationship of Ancient Greek architecture through the technique of frottage.
Fumage is a technique in which an image is created by painting with smoke from a lit candle that fuses into the ground of wet paint. According to art historian Mary Flanagan, the technique can be compared to a reading of tea leaves and to the Rorschach test, perceptions of inkblots that are used for psychoanalytic analysis. They have also elsewhere been described as “soot paintings” by Jiri Georg Dokoupil and have been used by artists like Bimal Banerjee and Burhan Doğançay.
The action of using fire as a medium. Fumage artists manipulate flame by craftily burning a surface, creating an image with a unique monochromatic aesthetic. Lebanese-Armenian artist Jean Boghossian said that “The flame found him.” He’s been exploring this technique for quite a while, sometimes burning through the surface, other times caressing the surface of his canvas with his flame, just enough to create an esoteric smoke-like pattern. Fire is a volatile element, completely unpredictable. Being able to hone in on its sheer force seems to be the reason why Boghossian considers this medium one of his favourites.
A theoretical movement dedicated to delineating far-fetched prophecies and predictions destined in either near or distant dates yet to come. Sometimes drawn from archetypes of extreme technological and industrial consumerist fetishism, while other times expressed as cautionary dystopian parables of Neo-Luddite fear mongering. This artistic movement originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It focuses on topics such as speed, youth, industry, violence and vehicles of transportation.
A paper entitled Italian Futurism in Cairo, by Maria Elena Paniconi, states the following: “Nelson Morpurgo was born to a historian family in Cairo. Raised between Cairo and Milan, he met Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and several other futurists and, ultimately, helped secure a place for Futurism in Cairo from the 1920s through to his departure in the 1940s. He organised theatrical performances, painting exhibitions, radio shows, cultural events and debates. My paper analyses the cultural and linguistic bilingualism that this interstitial figure developed. Morpurgo’s activity is understood in three different ways: First, as the Transnational experience of a Futurist Vanguard; second, as emblematic of the Italian community in Cairo; and third, as representative of the complexities of Egyptian Cosmopolitanism.”
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 74-79.