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.
Using techniques to create a misleading, unreal or depictive appearance, the technique of illusion in fine art has been used to varying degrees for centuries. Often associated with the French term trompe l’oeil – to “deceive the eye” – illusory works have the ability to appear almost like magic.
Such is often the case in the work of Bahraini artist Rashid Al Khalifa, whose intricate installations play on geometrics and parametrics together with shadow projections and optical illusions. In one of Khalifa’s works entitled Penumbra: Textured Shadow, Coloured Light (2018), the artist used a variety of colours – from bright red to stark white – to create a number of optical effects. At certain contours, the work appears to take on one colour palette, before transforming to another.
Ink is one of the oldest drawing mediums in the world, often done in a black or brown colour. It can also contain dyed elements or pigments that are typically done on paper but also canvas and other surfaces.
Early works had bright primitive colours derived from ancient Iraqi carpets. Moved to naive art and composed subjects, which were taken from Religious mythology, Arabian nights and Folklore. His research as part of the Baghdad Group: A study of the Arabic Alphabet in a philosophical, mystical way, using letters as a means to explain his search. It wasn’t about the letters themselves, and so was contemplative and searching. It led to a surrealistic approach where the contemplation of the visual gives way to the subconscious. The feelings and emotions that the subconscious brings forth are in his words the true reality, more real than a physical reality. The conventional viewing of things limits its understanding and true, Holistic understanding comes from subconscious absorption and emotional responses.
Impasto refers to extremely thick applications of paint, usually to the point where palette-knife strokes are readily visible. The thick layers of paint take significantly longer to dry, typically several days if not weeks, but in terms of texture, impasto offers textures that appear to literally emanate from the canvas itself.
Installation art refers to 3D works that are often site-specific in nature and designed with the idea of transforming physical space into a work of art in its own right.
In 2016, artist Khaled Jarrar created a site-specific installation at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai. Entitled Castles Built from Sand Will Fall, the installation included a re-creation of a hidden 110-metre passageway beneath the border wall that cuts through the West Bank in Palestine. Entering the gallery, visitors first encountered a hole that the artist created and were forced to move through in order to encounter the other works on display. The installation also includes other media such as photography, video, sculpture and art objects, altogether platforming Jarrar’s use of diverse objects to relate to social and political issues.
Intaglio belongs to the category of printmaking, a technique where an image is carved into the surface of a metal or wood surface, with the incised element allowing for ink to sink in. The resulting image will be the direct opposite and form the basis of the image itself, typically transferred to a surface like paper.
In a series by Sama Alshaibi, the Iraqi-born conceptual artist used a technique of intaglio based on a series of wall tiles she encountered in the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia. The resulting works on cotton paper were recreations of patterns that archaeologists determined were tiles that originated from Iraq and were installed at the time of Abu Ibrahim Ahmad (r. 854-863). The works were made via a process known as photogravures, with the end result being image-etched copper plates that were then inked and processed through an etching press over cotton paper.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 87-91.