This group exhibition unites the work of 11 artists whose practices are all based in a certain form of systematic techniques. Curated by Anna Seaman, the show looks at practices that deliberately place themselves within rigid systems and restrictions yet still find space for flexibility and expression. This could mean calligraphic artists who use interesting ways of working with script, art that comes from mathematical or scientific principles or geometric and patterned art that has a clear and deliberate concept.

The exhibition borrows its title from the novel by French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was paralyzed by a stroke and although only able to move his left eyelid, wrote a book with the assistance of a translator. He suffered locked-in syndrome, metaphorically referred to as the diving bell, yet still managed a creative output, showing his mind to be free as a butterfly.

For the exhibition, this title is used as a literary device to provide an umbrella term under which to link disparate practices. Included in the exhibition are a collection of works by Ebtisam Abdulaziz, one of the members of the UAE’s Flying House collective and a leading contemporary figure in the regional art scene. The pieces, Words Into Art, take sentences from her diary, which she translates into a code and then plots on a graph to create visual language. Also in the show is the work by Ahmed Al Faresi, a science professor from Al Ain who confines himself to the repeated use of the infinity symbol to represents the universality of being. A highlight is the work of Julia Ibbini, an Abu-Dhabi based artist. Her work stems from a fascination with complex pattern and is made of many layers of laser cut archival paper and mylar, which are then emphasised with bold inks and paint.


The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, showcase Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, until June 30


A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Inventing Perspective #45, page 28.