E-Issue 05 –– VCE
Fall 2022

September 5th, 2022



  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in VCE
  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

E-05++
Fall/Winter 2022-23


Artist Interview January 19th, 2023
NYC Reflecting on Her Southwestern Chinese Bai Roots, Peishan Huang Captures Human Traces on Objects and Spaces

Artist Interview January 8th, 2023 
TYO Shu Yonezawa and the Art of Animation

Artist Interview December 9th, 2022
DXB Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition December 2nd, 2022
TYO Wetland Lab Proposes Sustainable Cement Alternative in Tokyo

Exhibition November 11th, 2022
TYO
“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX



E-Issue 04 –– IST 
Spring 2022

March 15th, 2022



  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in IST
  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO


E-04++ 
Spring/Summer 2022


Curator Interview July 9th, 2022
IST Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS

Market Interview June 28th, 2022
HK 
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe

Exhibition June 27th, 2022
UAE
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks

Exhibition June 21st, 2022
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis

Artist Interview June 13th, 2022
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation

Artist Interview May 13th, 2022
DXB 
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Exhibition May 6th, 2022
IST
 Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”

Exhibition April 23rd, 2022
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall

Market Interview March 28th, 2022
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

E-Issue 03 –– TYO 
Fall 2021

October 1st, 2022



  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo 
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

E-03++
Fall/Winter 2021-22


Exhibition Review March 14th, 2022
DXB Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?

Exhibition March 11th, 2022
DXB Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022

Artist Interview March 10th, 2022
DXB Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022

Artist Interview February 26th, 2022
TYO Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421
Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

Exhibition October 7th, 2021
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity

Market Interview October 6th, 2021
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance

Exhibition October 5th, 2021
DXB
Engage101 Presents “Connected, Collected” at Sotheby’s Dubai

E-Issue 02 –– NYC 
Spring 2021

February 21st, 2021



  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City 
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

E-02++
Spring/Summer 2021


Exhibition Review August 9th, 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections

Artist Interview June 30th, 2021
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka

Exhibiton Review June 20th, 2021
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421

Exhibition June 11th, 2021
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor

Market Interview May 26th, 2021
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age

Curator Interview May 20th, 2021
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre

Artist Interview May 11th, 2021
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity

Exhibition May 9th, 2021
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London

Artist Interview April 28th, 2021
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited

Exhibition Review April 27th, 2021
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel

Artist Interview April 26th, 2021
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto

Exhibition April 16th, 2021
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy

Exhibition Review April 5th, 2021
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes

Exhibition Review April 1st, 2021
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows

Exhibition March 28th, 2021
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks 

Curator Interview March 21st, 2021
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition Review March 7th, 2021
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421

Exhibition Review March 3rd, 2021
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB
Summer 2020 

August 1st, 2020



  1. Editor’s Note 
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai 
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

E-01++
Fall/Winter 2020-21


Exhibition Review February 21st, 2021
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists    

Curator Interview January 25th, 2021
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists

Exhibition Review December 9th, 2020
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020


AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421 

Exhibition Review November 21st, 2020
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue

Exhibition Review November 19th, 2020
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020

Exhibition Review November 16th, 2021
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye

Exhibition Review November 13th, 2020
DXB
Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre

Book Review October 28th, 2020
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

Exhibition Review October 22nd, 2020
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE

Exhibition October 22nd, 2020
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ

Exhibition Review October 19th, 2020
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?

Market Interview October 14th, 2021
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers

Artist Interview September 27th, 2020
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Exhibition Review September 24th, 2020
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React


Curator Interview September 14th, 2020
UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community

Artist Interview September 10th, 2020
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia

Artist Interview September 7th, 2020
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear

Market Interview September 4th, 2020
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’

Exhibition September 1st, 2020
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

Market Interview August 28th, 2020
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting

Artist Interview August 26th, 2020
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations

Artist Interview August 24th, 2020
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space

Artist Interview August 23rd, 2020
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism

Map August 16th, 2020
BEY GAD Map: Arts & Culture Relief for Beirut

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Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity


By Athoub N. Al Busaily

Published on May 11th, 2021

      What tames our behavior, belief-system, and emotional response, is an unconscious negotiation with the codes of culture. Traditional clothing, norms, the inherited role of the male and female, and their instructed relationship with worship are few of the rigid codes that Salman Al Najem tries to divulge. The stinging satire directed towards culture and its ideologies reveal the essence of individualism and the experiences within. This and other investigations are prompted by Al Najem in his latest series Mihrab, presented by Engage101.

Salman Al Najem. Image courtesy of Hady Elcott and Noor Althehli via Engage 101.

The Bahraini artist joins the platform for its first showcase outside of the UAE. From May 3 to 13, the Mihrab series is available online seeking to instigate dialogue, community-building, and be acquired by emerging collectors. Over the past week, a live-streamed opening, and a critique session with Bahraini cultural pioneer Latifa Al Khalifa discussing the ‘Gulf Gaze’ have taken place.

The exhibition is calculated to coincide with the sanctity of the Holy Month. As stated by Al Khalifa, who introduces  Al Najem’s artist profile “Showcasing the works in this series for the first time during the holy month of Ramadan is a deliberate choice acting as a vignette into the Khaleejis’ relationship towards worship.” 


“Showcasing the works in this series for the first time during the holy month of Ramadan is a deliberate choice acting as a vignette into the Khaleejis’ relationship towards worship.”  


-Latifa Al Khalifa

Since August 2020, Engage101 has been broadening their features of artists in the Gulf region. Carrying out that task is Gaith Abdulla, one of Engage101’s co-founders, who expresses that “All that is expected is that this produces a more accurate and true vision of the artistic practices that are emerging and evolving in the region.”

This perspective is further validated by Salman Al Najem as illustrated in the exchange below,

Athoub N. Al Busaily: Congratulations on your brilliant show with Engage101. The outcome of the exhibition is positively significant.

Salman Al Najem: I’m really glad and happy with the response. Selling is an important part of being an artist, a lot of it has to do with my philosophy in creating my work. When I make art that goes to people’s spaces, it infiltrates it. My message is physically moving, from my studio to their house. The mere fact that my work is traveling outside the studio and existing in someone else’s space is a continuation of its life.

A.B.: Art has always infiltrated multiple spaces and it's interesting to see the impact it creates when being displayed in different settings. It’s not just about monetary gain, that is just a side effect.

S.N.: Exactly, when my work moves outside the studio it continues its life-cycle. I want to literally and physically spread love. 

Later, Al Najem adds “I make space for grace and facilitate the work through me.” His words and analogies remind us, even if tangentially, that there is a phenomenon of mysticism that exists within Islam. Mysticism is employed by many as an intangible tool, so much as a gateway to the celestial realm. Existing without doors or clear direction, the pathway to other-worldly existence seems to be contingent upon one’s stage of devotion and fidelity.

That quasi-religious direction that is indicated in the Mihrab is a space conquered by unity. Gathering Muslim worshipers into a singular focal point. Such an element is prominent in Al Najem paintings where he lures us into the singular perspective in his spatial paintings. Informed by his own personal journey with God, his style is blanketed with omniscient observations towards his surroundings.“I always wanted to create artworks that are spatial,” he confirms.

Mihrab in the making. Image courtesy of Salman Al Najem.

In the Mihrab series, architecture and space are being choreographed through paint and canvas. There’s volume and loud mass that encompasses the structure of the Mihrab in his paintings, what that creates is a movement that draws us, a new form of spatial awareness. By doing so, space is created and two-dimensionality no longer survives. Spray-paint freely roams the surface of the Mihrab; borders, and lines no longer exist in his version, this freedom allows for a secure spiritual encounter.

But what is it about the Mihrab? The Mihrab is often found colonized with Islamic decorative symbols. Aniconic representations, geometrical patterns, vegetations, and calligraphy are some of the elements that usually cloak the concave niche, allowing it to reclaim its religious identity. However, deprived of mathematical geometry or any aniconic representations, the only element related to the architecture of the Mihrab that survived in Al Najem’s paintings is the dominating symmetry, which ultimately reads as an equilibrium within human spirituality. The symmetry here leaves a predominant effect in the viewers, it indicates, directs, and creates a united focal point. 



“The only element related to the architecture of the Mihrab that survived in Al Najem’s paintings is the dominating symmetry, which ultimately reads as an equilibrium within human spirituality.”


-Athoub N. Al Busaily


Is that unapologetic, luring symmetry on the surface what indeed conceals the subliminal messages in Al Najem’s paintings? What lies behind the surface is a dense thought process, filled with irony and wit, but what one encounters are softness and lovable characters. The shockingly friendly figures are placed at the center of the Mihrab. Both cultural and religious figures are being deprived of a foreground that anchors them, instead, a calming floatation is what draws the balance between them and the background.


Mihrab #2, #14 & #9 by Salman Al Najem. Artwork images courtesy of Hady Elcott and Noor Althehli via Engage 101.

We witness a sort of transient state that only exists through devotion and worship. When it comes to composition the following exchange takes place,

A.B.: Your Mihrab is not how it is in “real life”, it is not an object of ornament,  there’s no iconography or decoration, only colors. It reminds me of how when we look at the sun, the inside of our eyelids pick light and transform it into an intangible wash of colors. Your figures are drawn with careful observations, however, there’s an absence of details in the Mihrab. Why did you choose to have those two ends of the spectrum?

S.N.: The thing about the sun is that it was one of the starting points for this work. I have always wanted to make paintings of what it looks like when you close your eyes. I wanted to create an ethereal world that doesn’t exist. Not bound to the rigidity of this one. I wanted the characters to seem as though they’re floating in space, a space that doesn’t exist, a liminal space that is not found in this reality. That’s definitely the reason why I did this, I wanted the tension that comes with the less concrete background. We can argue and say there’s no foreground, it is not standing, or sitting it’s just floating. There’s no depth, the depth is in the absence of depth.


 “I wanted to create an ethereal world that doesn’t exist.”

-Salman Al Najem


While body proportions and posture follow the historical canon, placed at the core of the Mihrab, the central figures in Al Najem’s paintings continue to demand attention. The observation boils down to one remark: There is a dense Khaleeji language that speaks through the traditional clothing.

A.B.: Khaleeji iconographies are carefully selected and depicted in some of your paintings. Did you deliberately choose such iconography to create a point of reference and establish relatability?

S.N.: Yes, definitely. Born as a Khaleeji man makes me want to talk about this experience. I want people around me to relate, and to represent the people, these times, and the culture. With the specific paintings, you’re talking about, the Khaleeji ones, where they’re skeletons and they’re still wearing their cultural dress and it’s like Khaleeji culture is so ingrained within us to the point where we act as though we will take this to our death.

A.B: It becomes like a biological identity.

S.N.: Exactly, it transcends the superficial and goes into the biological.


Mihrab #17 & #20 by Salman Al Najem. Artwork images courtesy of Hady Elcott and Noor Althehli via Engage 101.


“Khaleeji culture is so ingrained within us to the point where we act as though we will take this to our death.”

-Salman Al Najem


Mihrab #18 & #19 by Salman Al Najem. Artwork images courtesy of Hady Elcott and Noor Althehli via Engage 101.

With these brief insights, what Al Najem ultimately aims to reveal is the multi-dimensional aspects of devotion we have towards our culture, from fame and wealth to nationalism.  Being tenants on specific land plots, living, playing, and devoting, that fidelity and growing sense of duty births through time physical elements that could be distinguished and exclusively limited to the tenants in our region.


“What Al Najem ultimately aims to reveal is the multi-dimensional aspects of devotion we have towards our culture, from fame and wealth to nationalism.”

- Athoub N. Al Busaily


Without realizing it, we are grappling with the notion of geo-identity, that physical construct that translates into norms. Or, in other words, the physical characteristics and behavioral patterns that a particular region is associated with.

The rapid growth of Khaleeji artists and their identity towards the region leaves us with plenty to wonder about. Culture, in contrast to geo-identity, grants us the choice whether to follow certain practices or not. Its survival is dependent upon the transmission from generation to generation. Geo-identity, however, is even more fluid in its nature, and its survival is not dependent upon generational transmission. Rather, geo-identity is continuously reshaping itself in parallel to the geographical changes of the said region. Ultimately, birthing an attachment and a sense of devotion towards our lands.

Mihrab #25 by Salman Al Najem (lights on and lights off). Artwork images courtesy of Hady Elcott and Noor Althehli via Engage 101.


MIHRAB by Salman Al Najem is on view online via Engage101 until May 13th, 2021. Follow Engage101 and Salman Al Najem for showcase updates.

Salman Al Najem (b. 1992, Bahrain) identifies as a creative force and a self-expression of the divine. He uses common symbols and materials from contemporary life to disentangle Khaleeji societal complexities. A level of physicality and intensity exist in Salman’s paintings, created through the use of heavy physical gestures and industrial materials and paints. His works go through an aesthetic filter of colours, symbols and images derived from the culture he consumed as a child. Being in authentic self-expression, Salman facilitates space for grace and chance to allow the divine to flow through him. Salman holds an MA in Fine Art from the Royal College of Art and BA Interior & Spatial Design from University of the Arts London, LCC.

Latifa Al Khalifa is a curator and writer investigating contemporary culture of the MENA region, with a focus on the Arabian Gulf. As a way to champion artists and creatives from the MENA region on a global scale, Al Khalifa launched Too Far, an arts consultancy in Bahrain in 2016. She is a regular contributor to Khaleejesque and Tribe Magazine and is an alumnus of the Bangkok edition of the ICI Curatorial Intensive (2018).

Engage101 is an art collecting and research platform that grew out of countless discussions about the art ecosystem in the UAE and wider region between independent curator Munira Al Sayegh and art critic Gaith Abdulla.  By way of quarterly art sales featuring non-gallery represented artists, original research, and public programming, Engage101 addresses a gap in the local art collecting ecosystem. We believe grassroots movements and collaborations are necessary to sustain, anchor and counterbalance the strong leaps the local art ecosystem has witnessed through government-led efforts.



Athoub N. Al Busaily is a Kuwaiti artist currently living in Abu Dhabi. In her work, she investigates the notion of borders, hunting, and the desert environment of Kuwait, often underlined by a tone of irony and the use of visual metaphors. Her works have been exhibited at Warehouse421 (Abu Dhabi), The Hub Gallery (Kuwait City), Maraya Art Centre (Sharjah), Art Budapest (Budapest). In 2019, she received a fellowship from the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation as part of their 7th Cohort. She is currently completing an MA in Art History and Museum Studies at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. Prior to that, she received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Sharjah.