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 area of concentric dispersal of people or peoples. In relation to art, the word is used to analyse artists (with or without their families) who have migrated out of their homeland and who express their cultural isolation and diversity through the bridge they create in their artistic expression. The diaspora results in a global dialogue that unites one’s place of origin with one’s estranged place of residence.
Painter Helen Zughaib’s colourful pieces, entitled Syrian Migration Series, show groups of people in transitory states. Ghada El Kandari’s work Mom and Her Daughters symbolically depicts the emotional trauma affecting the diaspora on a more personal level.
One or many pictures painted or carved on two hinged tablets. Initially more popularly used in reference to iconography such as altarpieces, the term has broadened to mean any piece that is composed of two separate frames that usually exist in relevance to each other. The double format lends to a conversation between two fragments of a larger whole.
Notable Usages Include: Ahmed Mater’s Illumination Diptych (2010), Arwan Abouon’s Mirror Mirror/Allah Allah (2012) and I’m Sorry I Forgive You (2012), and Omar Khouri’s Nabil and Walid.
A cinematic and photographic form intended as categorically nonfiction storytelling. It is comprised of official pieces of written, printed or other material that support a factual subject. Documentaries are intended to shed light on specific topics. Questions as to human bias and creative liberty become of the essence. The artistry put into documentary-style works could support the accuracy of the information related or could uniquely convey the view seen from the documentarian’s personal viewpoint, opinion or perspective.
Artists Ahlam Shibli and Randa Mirza both document Arab life through their documentary aesthetics. The photographic work of Palestinian artist Shibli addresses the contradictory implications of the notion of home: it deals with the loss of home and the fight against that loss, but also with the restrictions and limitations that the idea of home imposes on individuals and communities marked by repressive identity politics. Lebanese artist Mirza’s works, such as El Zohra Was Not Born in a Day (2013-2016), Beirutopia (2010), Abandoned Rooms (2005-2006) and La Grotte aux Pigeons (2003), tell the story of contemporary Lebanese living through the people’s day-to-day activities and the local architecture as imprinted by key historical events. Where the camera points remains a completely personal choice, yet both seem determined to give the most faithful rendering of their respective modern environments.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 64-67.