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.
An essential painting tool traditionally made from wood that provides a flat surface for mixing paints and laying out colour schemes.
A dual-use painting too for mixing/applying paint with a flat metal blade also used to create marbling effects and other textures on paintings’ surface.
Flexible medium around for centuries made from wood pulp, rags, straw, cloth or other fibrous material (usually in thin sheets), used for printing, writing, drawing, sculpting, painting and more.
(b. Dubai, 1969, lives and works in Dubai UAE) Conceptual Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem frequently represents his own body in drawings, performances and photographs, but since the 1990s, an on-going body of work Scratches on Paper has demonstrated his scratching technique. Kazem meticulously and repeatedly scratches the surface of paper with the edge of scissors to create Braille-like incisions as well as a myriad of patterns suggesting both delicacy and poetics of form. The underpinning of Kazem’s practice is informed by his previous training as a musician where transience is taken up as mode of inquiry for visual art. An early member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society alongside the “Five,” an informal group of Emirati artists – including Hassan Sharif and Abdullah Al Saadi – Kazem completed his Master’s in fine art in 2012 at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. He has participated in the Annual Exhibitions of the Emirates Fine Arts Society in Sharjah since 1986 and several editions of Sharjah Biennial including the 2007 edition, which he curated.
Delicate, soft pale colours normally in the form of a small chalk-like stick made from powdered pigment. In French, pastel means crayon.
(b.1917 Cairo, d.2017)
Village by Mohammad Sabry is a rendering in earthy pastels of a typical Egyptian Village scene and an example of a work by a generation of Modern Arab artists who drew from naturalistic documentation of people and landscapes, to create socio-political commentaries, personal narratives and concerns. The artist makes beautiful use of colours in his Maghrebi landscapes of Old Cairo, Morocco, the Nile, as well as Islamic sites of Andalusia. His paintings were renowned for their use of colour: tawny yellows and greens alongside rich pinks and blues. Sabry, like other 20th-century Arab artists, reflected on and re-examined their histories to show that even though they were influenced by European modernism, their works were distinctively Arab. Sabry graduated from the Faculty of Arts in Cairo in the mid-1930s. He spent much of his life in Spain: he studied at the Royal Academy in San Fernando in Madrid and became a professor there in 1952. He also worked for a time as assistant director at Madrid’s Egyptian Institute of Islamic Studies. In 1988, he was awarded the Queen Isabel medal for his contributions to Spanish culture.
Since the late 1960s to early 1970s, Performance Art has come to represent a time-based medium presented in front of a live audience that can be orchestrated, choreographed, spontaneous or random. The body is both subject and object in this art genre.
(b.1980, Beirut, Lebanon, live and works in Paris, France)
Tarek Atoui treats sound as a physical phenomenon explored through different methods of listening, composition and performance. As an artist and electroacoustic composer, he is known for activating instruments through improvised performances. WITHIN, an orchestra of sorts, was first launched in 2012 to consider how deafness can make us think differently about the experience of both sound and performance. Iterations have been performed with collaborators at the Sharjah Biennial 2013, the Berkeley Art Museum in 2015 and Galerie Chantal Carousel in Paris in 2017. Atoui composed WITHIN as a chain reaction of rhythmic and plucked pulses, silent and emic ones.
Personality or trait expressed or presented by a person to others. Usually characterised by the way one behaves with particular people or in a particular context.
A dry insoluble substance, usually pulverised, which when suspended in a liquid vehicle becomes a paint, ink, etc. The older, more traditional pigments were derived mostly from substances that existed naturally in the environment whilst new, synthetic pigments are derived from such natural substances as petroleum, but have been chemically modified to create a new substance that is unnatural to the environment.
(b.1974, Morocco, lives in Switzerland)
Mining, deconstructing and representing materials associated with Morocco and France are central to Latifa Echakhch’s large-scale installations that challenge cultural assumption. Tkaf in Darija, a north African dialect, is a curse invoked by someone close to you. The installation of the same name consists of pulverised bricks and pigments spread across the floor with stains on the walls of the exhibition space, mimicking traces of blood. The work draws on Echakhch’s visit to a sanctuary near Morocco’s Atlantic coast where witchcraft still prevails, as well as handprints and marks made onto walls with reddish clay. Born in Morocco in 1974, Echakhch has been living and working in Fully (canton of Valais, Switzerland) since 2012. She graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts in Cergy-Pontoise and the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Lyon.
A mid-1950s to early ‘60s Western art movement (UK and US) that draws on popular and mass culture for inspiration. Artists of this movement were seeking to connect popular culture with art traditions.
(b.1963 Shiraz, Iran)
Pop art gets the Middle Eastern treatment in the intricate and labour-intensive large-scale paintings by Farhad Moshiri. Drawing from highbrow and lowbrow popular culture, Moshiri seeks to challenge pre-existing definitions of art and often incorporates found objects onto his paintings’ surface. The large-scale Top of the World adopts a comic text style to spell out the words made from everyday materials, including plastic pearls, crystals, glitter and glaze. Based between Tehran and Paris, Moshiri explores commonalities between Persian and Western cultures through the lens of pop art.
An all-encompassing term for broadly shared practices, beliefs and objects including media objects, advertising, entertainment and leisure, fashion and trends and linguistic conventions.
(b.1961, Larache, Morocco, lives between Marrakech, Morocco and London, UK)
Dubbed the “Andy Warhol of Marrakech,” Hassan Hajjaj creates photographs that have long drawn on cross-cultural influences connecting London popular culture to his Moroccan roots. Born in Morocco but raised in London during his teenage years, Hajjaj juxtaposes fashion, design, pop art, consumerism and identity politics through vibrant portraits informed by a nomadic life spent embedded in two cultures. Aside from images themselves, frames become self-styled assemblages made out of everyday objects that in some way reflect the sitter’s identity. Feetball (2016), is a word play on “football,” the universally loved sport that is heavily endorsed by advertising and sports brands. In this image, the popular image of footballers wearing branded trainers is replaced with individuals wearing traditional Arab shoes emblazoned with a Nike tick. Hajjaj was born in Larache, Morocco, and moved to London at an early age. In the late 1980s, he began experimenting with photography, taking studio portraits of friends, musicians and artists, as well as people on the streets of Marrakech.
Colours that mix together to form other colours. The three main additive colours are red, blue and yellow. Primary colours cannot be mixed from other colours and are the source of all others.
An act of preparing the canvas for painting by applying one or two layers of gesso to the surface to allow colours to set and stand out. Priming also creates a smoother surface for brushwork onto the canvas’ surface.
Printed reproduction of an original work of art, design or image realised by a range of printing methods. The quantity that is made available for printing contributes to the final price of the art print.
(b.1952, Kuwait City, Kuwait, lives and works in Kuwait City, Kuwait)
No To The Invasion is a resistance poster print by Kuwaiti artist Thuraya Al-Baqsami created in response to opposing the Iraq-Kuwait war. In the print, the phrase “no to the invasion” boldly appears in Arabic below two figures, a male and a female, who are lamenting the aggression towards their homeland. The blue-toned lino cut print reflects on Al-Baqsami’s experience of living through conflict and continues a historical lineage of posters as visual forms of resistance to occupation. Al-Baqsami began creating works as a teenager in the 1960s and studied fine art in Cairo, later earning a Master’s degree in illustration from the Surikov Institute in Moscow. She was awarded the Kuwaiti State Prize for her book Cellar Candles (1993) about her experiences of the Gulf War.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGE 112-125.