In one of the most moving series of work among the new season of exhibitions in Dubai is Mohammed Kazem’s Even The Shade Does Not Belong to Them. The paintings on show in A Prime Activity at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde at first appear to be black. Look closer and they are painted images that have been almost fully obscured by numerous washes so that the figures below are swathed in a kind of smoke or haze, visible yet invisible as, metaphorically, the migrant labourers that inhabit Dubai so often are. On the facing wall are sculptural pieces made to appear like sections of walls of residential villas so common in the UAE. The statement Kazem is making is clear. The people who make the walls of the city that provide shade from the relentless desert sun have no claim of ownership upon them or any other part of life.
Equally thought provoking is the group show up at Green Art Gallery. Remnants investigates the sheer amount of waste and detritus that we leave behind us on this planet from the way we live and also, it is the first time that Cuban artists have been shown in Dubai and therefore brings in conversations about inclusion and exclusion.
The beautifully crafted exhibition at Lawrie Shabibi is Shaikha Al Mazrou’s debut solo. Al Mazrou’s practice is couched in a fascination with materiality and form but has intellectual roots in formal minimalism. Her metallic sculptures play with light, shadow and shading to make them appear in a dynamic state: inflating; deflating; falling; suspending but all of it is an optical illusion that reflects both the artist’s relationship with the material as well as the viewer’s experience.
Meem Gallery’s fourth edition of the ongoing Arab Print exhibition series has a collection of prints from Lebanese artists. There are some stunning Etel Adnan works, which are surprisingly alluring given their flatness that removes the usual texture of her abstract works. The geometric shapes of Hussein Madi’s work are also particularly appealing.
Back at Alserkal Avenue, the Third Line’s simultaneous exhibitions are a triumph. The primary space is filled with a new body of work by Monir Farmanfarmaian who is now 95 years old and still producing exquisitely beautiful work. Here her final set of mirror balls sit on plinths, mirror mosaics framed by curtains of reverse-painted Plexiglas hang majestically on the walls and in some, the smashed mirrors offer fragmented planes of her trademark geometric surfaces. Upstairs the work of a new artist Nima Nabavi also explores geometry. Whilst the artists are at either ends of their careers, they do dialogue through an interest in spirituality and infinity. Nabavi’s meticulous grids made from ink on archival paper are deeply meditative.
Gulf Photo Plus’ annual open call exhibition No Place Like Home explores notions of belonging and community. In a country full of expatriates, it is pertinent to ask these questions and to have them answered through the decisive medium of photography. This cleverly curated exhibition adds an element of poignancy and humour to the debate.