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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OIL PAINT

Oil paint refers to the process of painting with powdered pigments bound via oil, a basic rule of which is “fat over lean,” meaning that the paint should retain a smooth texture. In contrast to acrylic paint, oil paint gives off a shiny look and has been used by centuries.

Dia Azzawi, Sumeriayat, 1968. Oil on canvas, 84 x 64 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed by Capital D.
Dia Azzawi, Sumeriayat, 1968. Oil on canvas, 84 x 64 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed by Capital D.

ORGANIC

Organic in an artistic context usually points to materials that are not mass or industrially produced. This can refer to materials such as clay, for example, earthworks or land art that use organic and/or natural elements at their core.

Gabriel Orozco, Sand on Table as Model of ‘Self-Organising Criticality’, 1992-2013. Table; 75 x 200 x 200 cm, sand and diagrams; dimensions variable. Installation view: Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, 2013. Produced by Sharjah Art Foundation. Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.
Gabriel Orozco, Sand on Table as Model of ‘Self-Organising Criticality’, 1992-2013. Table; 75 x 200 x 200 cm, sand and diagrams; dimensions variable. Installation view: Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, 2013. Produced by Sharjah Art Foundation. Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.

ORIENTALIST

Orientalism is a term coined by Edward W. Said in his seminal book, Orientalism (1978). He defined it as “the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, ‘mind,’ destiny and so on.”

In Hubert Sattler’s Cèdres du Liban, we see the manifestation of orientalism in landscape painting. The work depicts a vision of European settler colonialism, referencing the land and cedar trees of Lebanon. The European vision of faraway colonies became itself a method of cultural colonisation, what Said later describes in his seminal book as the “Other.” Here on Sattler’s canvas, Lebanon is situated within a wider programme of expeditions to the country that eventually led to its colonisation by France. As painters would often accompany imperial armies and traders on expedition routes throughout the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa, Sattler’s canvas can be seen within a wider discourse of orientalism because of the way it depicts a natural landscape, ripe for European exploitation and control.

Sattler Hubert (1817 – 1904), Aquarelle - Cèdres du Liban, 13 x 19 cm. Courtesy of Gaby Daher.
Sattler Hubert (1817 – 1904), Aquarelle – Cèdres du Liban, 13 x 19 cm. Courtesy of Gaby Daher.

ORNAMENTATION

Decorative or embellished elements incorporated for enhancement or expressiveness. This also refers to an act or state of being decorated or adorned.

MONIR SHAHROUDY FARMANFARMAIAN
(Iran, b.1924, Qazvin, Iran, d.2019, Tehran, Iran)
The late artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian was renowned for creating a unique visual language and reframing ideas of ornamentation. Farmanfarmaian draws on an Iranian decorative technique dating back to the 16th century known as aineh-kari, where glass that had arrived from Europe broken was incorporated into Islamic architecture and design to produce intricate patterns, embellishing façades and reflective interiors. Lightening for Neda is a large sixpanel mosaic work consisting of thousands of mirror shards used to create intricate mirror mosaic and reverse-glass paintings. The work honours a young woman killed in demonstrations during Iran’s 2009 presidential elections.

Born in Iran in 1924, Farmanfarmaian studied Fine Arts at Tehran University from 1943 to 1944. She left for New York soon after to attend Cornell University and later studied fashion illustration at Parsons School of Design in 1949. During her New York years (1945–57), she was part of a generation of artists who turned to the potential offered by abstraction for a new visual art language. Farmanfarmaian developed a remarkable oeuvre up until her death in 2019, further expanding her interests in Islamic geometry and philosophy, aineh-kari and Sufi symbolism.

Monir Farmanfarmaian, Lightning for Neda, 2009. Installation view. Courtesy of Third Line Gallery.
Monir Farmanfarmaian, Lightning for Neda, 2009. Installation view. Courtesy of Third Line Gallery.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGE 106-111.

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