An adventure into art in a digital time going online has been a trend for some time now, but it has never been as relevant and important as it has become during the covid-19 pandemic. Simply put, it has developed into a tool to connect the world virtually in order to continue business, with the aim of replacing the physical presence. In the art world, however, it has left many people perplexed as to how to continue having a ‘normal’ relationship with others through a screen. The challenge becomes even greater when it comes to experiencing artworks, particularly those that were not originally conceived to be experienced digitally. Can the representation of an image ever recreate or reflect the experience that would usually take place in a physical encounter? SELECTIONS set off on a quest to find out. We invited 10 guests to describe one artwork of their choice, first in an objective way, but then more subjectively and contextually. The results are as unique as our participants and form this issue’s experimental catalogue.
Hala Khayat describes
Still Life – Flowers, 2017
Various materials, table, vase,
flowers, artificial ice and snow,
Courtesy of the artist ; Copyrights
© Laurent Pernot & ADAGP Paris
My work implies that I look at optics. Every hour, day and night, I am constantly bombarded with images of artworks, sculptures in many shapes, forms and mediums. I am trying to understand visual art experiences and sometimes must read a lot of information to decipher conceptual art. These experiences are taking shape both physically and online in recent times. Sometimes, I sadly find myself lost in my true real personal appreciation. I sometimes wonder truly if I was moved by the Aesthetics of a work, or by its genuine idea or by nothing ! and the real truth is I need to convince myself otherwise. Because over the years I trained my eyes to read and see art in many layers and appreciate each layer differently. One layer is about the work’s market value, (my auction experience hat on) and a third layer would be analysing the evolution of the artist and this particular series and comparing it to similar or opposite narratives. There is always too much analysis behind my appreciation because it is work. It’s my job.
And I became super trained to go about it without emotions, but sometimes, some magic encounters with art take place… without invitation, I find an artwork invading me and staying forever.
A few months before the 2020 pandemic changed our lives, I visited a very dear friend in London. It was a warm day.
While climbing the tapestry-covered stairs, I found myself in front of a huge vase of different flowers sitting majestically on a classical wooden baroque console. The little light from the outside twinkled in my eyes and I noticed it was an installation that was covered in snow. I was suddenly frozen myself. It might sound strange, but something about a very classical console on a staircase as a base for a huge flower vase was suddenly a very Damascene image, a nostalgic image. This installation transported me to home: a memory of a home that does not look or resemble my mother’s or grandmother’s places… which was my homes in Syria. Because until 2000 when I left I was a student and didn’t have my own place to furnish yet.
This piece connected me with a deeper sense of home. A feeling. A feeling that was covered in an icy sparkling white material. It was still. Motionless. Alive on the inside. Dead on the outside. This resonated strongly with what seems to be a recurring question I have had for 20 years now: will the snow melt so I can find the warmth of that home?
The true colours of this installation are rainbow like reminiscent of those new digital kaleidoscopic filters that coat our daily images on social media with glitter and a different colour schemes, playing with different light angles.
This experience took a few elongated seconds to register. I found myself asking my friend about the artist who mentioned he was French. His name is Laurent Pernot, Other conversations took me away, but this powerful encounter and photo taken by my brain triggered very complex sentiments that came back to me during my 10 weeks of confinement in Dubai. I often saw this vase when I thought of what I was looking for in art. I became the vase of flowers, frozen in time, waiting for a hot sun to shine metaphorically. While I was playing with this feeling it became an oxymoron: I was also longing for the coldness on my face, the one you get when you are facing snow, because in Dubai this past spring and summer it was boiling hot.
I looked back and was so eager to know more about this artist and his practice. I found @laurentpernot on Instagram, my favourite social media platform. We communicated and I came to appreciate his kind generous personality and his practice even more. His paintings with words, his intervention in made objects, his sculptures. Recently Laurent has been exhibiting at Pavillon Vendôme – Aix-en-Provence and is joining a major gallery soon. And my own case of flowers is in the making, frozen in time forever but giving me the hope to melt the ice and find my home.
Hala Khayat is the regional director of Art Dubai. She is also a Middle Eastern senior art specialist, writer, curator, art collector and philanthropist with over 13 years’ experience in her formal role curating the Christie’s Post war and contemporary art auctions and managing art projects that covers events, audience engagement, educational trips, courses and lectures. Khayat is Syrian, with a BA in Visual Communications from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Damascus, and an MA, in Design Studies from Central Saint Martins in London She is Fluent in Arabic, French and English. She has been living in Dubai since 2002. She was named one of the 100 most influential Arabs in art and culture under 40 by Arabian Business in 2015. Renowned as one of the leading authorities and observers in the Middle Eastern art and cultural scene.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #54