Shaikha Al Mazrou, Red on White II, 2013. Found Objects, 150 x 150 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
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.

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MALLEABLE

The term malleable in an art context usually refers to materials that are easily sculpted and shaped, such as moist clay, modelling clay, polymer clay, warm wax, molten glass or soft metals such as aluminium.

Thaier Helal, Assi River, 2014. Mixed Media on Canvas, 170 X 170 cm. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery.
Thaier Helal, Assi River, 2014. Mixed Media on Canvas, 170 X 170 cm. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery.

MANIFESTO

In art, manifestos are written texts that form the basis of an aesthetic, social or political philosophy. Some famous art historical manifestos include the Futurist Manifesto, written by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and published in 1909.

Another, less well-known manifesto is the One Dimension Group, founded in Iraq by Shakir Hassan Al Said in 1971. The group sought to integrate medieval Sufi traditions with modern, abstract art, creating a manifesto in order to outline these ideals. “From a philosophical point of view,” Al Said wrote, “the One Dimension is eternity, or an extension of the past to the time before the existence of pictorial surface; to the non-surface. Our consciousness of the world is a relative presence. It is our self-existence whilst our absence is our eternal presence.”

Shakir Hassan Al Said, Al Deek al Faseeh (The Articulate Cockerel), 1954. Oil on canvas, 60 x 44 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed by Capital D.
Shakir Hassan Al Said, Al Deek al Faseeh (The Articulate Cockerel), 1954. Oil on canvas, 60 x 44 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed by Capital D.

MASS PRODUCTION

Mass production in an artistic context normally refers to objects that are manufactured, affordable and popular. The idea of mass production typically related to pop art, with sensibilities that highlighted the juxtaposition between popular and fine art.

Shaikha Al Mazrou is an Emirati artist whose work often interrogates the relationship between mass-produced materials, notably electronic waste and/ or construction materials, which she then imbues with colour and sculpts into new forms. Through her sculptural experiments, Al Mazrou questions the relationship between our reliance on mass-produced resources and electronic waste, creating in the process unique abstract geometric representations. According to her gallerist Lawrie Shabibi, “fascinated by notions of physical space, her [Al Mazrou’s] sculptures and installations materialise as simple gestures that emphasise the representation of tension, weight and space.”

Shaikha Al Mazrou, Red on White II, 2013. Found Objects, 150 x 150 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Shaikha Al Mazrou, Red on White II, 2013. Found Objects, 150 x 150 x 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.

MODERN

Modern art is often used to refer to work produced roughly between the 1860s and 1970s, described in general in terms of a style and philosophy associated with the spirit of industrialisation and experimentation. Gestures towards abstraction and non-figurative art often define modernism, but late modernism became associated with pop art too.

In 2018, the Sharjah Art Museum held an exhibition that included more than 120 paintings and sculptures from the Barjeel collection that foregrounded the unique contributions of Arab artists to the history and canon of modernism. The Barjeel Art Foundation is headed by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, an eminent writer, political thinker and researcher on art and urbanism. Among the works included in the exhibition were those produced by the Casablanca School based in Lebanon
in the 1960s and ‘70s, including works by artists Etel Adnan, Saloua Raouda Choucair and Saliba Douaihy. In Adnan’s La Montagne, Liban (1973), we encounter a vibrantly coloured, abstracted renditions of a landscape: the resulting work can be considered, as such, a pillar of Arab modernism.

La Montagne, Liban (1973) Artwork by Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal, Oil on canvas, 54 x 64 x 2.5 cm. Image courtesy of Balice Hertling Galerie.
La Montagne, Liban (1973) Artwork by Etel Adnan and Simone Fattal, Oil on canvas, 54 x 64 x 2.5 cm. Image courtesy of Balice Hertling Galerie.

MONOCHROME

A monochrome work is defined as a painting or sculpture that is void of multiple colours. By eschewing different colours, monochromatic works may use different shades of one colour, or may be composed strictly of shades of black and white.

Dia al-Azzawi, My Broken Dream (2015-16). Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 4.24 x 10 meters. Courtesy of Meem Gallery.
Dia al-Azzawi, My Broken Dream (2015-16). Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 4.24 x 10 meters. Courtesy of Meem Gallery.

MURAL

A mural is a painting that is done directly on the surface of a wall, ceiling or another surface, often in public space. Though murals are often associated with graffiti and public art, they may also be exhibited in the frame of galleries and private spaces too.

Chafa Ghaddar, Fresco technique on wall with mineral charcoal, ashes, and iron powder. 14m x 6m. Courtesy of the artist. Photo Credit: Beirut Art center.
Chafa Ghaddar, Fresco technique on wall with mineral charcoal, ashes, and iron powder. 14m x 6m. Courtesy of the artist. Photo Credit: Beirut Art center.

MUSE

A muse in art often refers to someone who has a profound inspiration on an artist, but the word itself stems from Greek mythology, meaning “the goddess who presides” and is associated with artistic disciplines. Today, the concept of a muse is often associated with modernism and painters who used women as a source of inspiration.


A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 96-103.

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