SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421
By Sarah Daher
Published on November 23, 2020
The UAE art calendar is marked by a number of events that come around once every 12 months and cumulatively build up what is rapidly becoming a rich history and community of local cultural production. Arguably one of the most anticipated moments in the calendar year is the opening of the SEAF show which takes place each fall at the Warehouse 421 gallery on the fringe of Abu Dhabi city. The Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Arts Fellowship, colloquially known as SEAF, is now in its seventh year and its latest cohort is nothing shy of extraordinary.
1. Installation view, Community and Critique: Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) 2019/20 Cohort 7, Warehouse 421.
2. Zainab Imad Eldin, Colored Black, 2020. Ink on acetate, reproduced on photo paper. Detail view.
3. Maitha Hamdan, Till we are back to heaven, 2020. Fabric, laundry clothes clips, laundry rope, wall, wall spray, nails, lighting.
The program, which runs in partnership with the world-renowned Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), provides around 15 young UAE-based artists with 10 months of artistic training and development. At the culmination of the 10 months, their works are exhibited in a group show, and the graduates have the opportunity to continue their studies in a fully-funded MA program at RISD.
This year’s cohort of 16, nurtured through their studio-based practice under 2020’s extraordinary conditions has produced a vivid and colorful reflection on the ways that artistic practice can crystallize a way of being in the world. Ruminations on architecture large and small, interior and exterior, intersect with self-reflexive corporeal pieces and practices that tease many senses. Traveling through the show one is led on an insightful journey that illustrates where the future of art might be going when led by the most talented of this young generation.
Ruminations on architecture large and small, interior and exterior, intersect with self-reflexive corporeal pieces and practices that tease many senses.
It is difficult to miss the stark juxtaposition between material and subject in the work of artists such as Fatma Al-Ali, Malak Elghuel, Faissal El-Malak, and Sara Ahli.
Al-Ali’s My mother told me not to collect bricks. turns the heavy foundational building block of a brick into a melting, collapsing pile of brick shells made of the rubber-like urethane. Her bricks do not so much crumble but fold in on themselves, the epidermis peeling and slipping off of the gypsum blocks.
Her bricks do not so much crumble but fold in on themselves, the epidermis peeling and slipping off of the gypsum blocks.
One hears Elghuel’s If I Could Trace You… If I Could Hear You long before seeing it with its phantasmagorical tune reaching as far as the entrance of the gallery. Her work, at once an auditory experience and a meticulous visual one, speaks to the amalgamated personal experiences of mass displacement. The translation of information from brutal experience to data bereft of nuance and feeling is her starting point; she then ingeniously re-translates this numerical data into a musical language, the melody of which juxtaposes form and content.
Her work, at once an auditory experience and a meticulous visual one, speaks to the amalgamated personal experiences of mass displacement.
El-Malak’s installation Scene for croissant evokes the corporeal abundantly, but it is his concretized sweat in the form of glazed ceramic pieces that catches me off guard. The fluid-turned-object is but a trace of his physical exertion, but its reimagining as a relic of its own significance points to a profound awareness of practice as a form of intricate documentation.
7. Faissal El-Malak, Scene for croissant, 2020. Canvas, oil paint, glazed ceramic, video and sound, colored pencil, and plaster on paper.
The guttural forms of Ahli’s sculptural pieces spill out onto several surfaces in the corner of the last leg of the exhibition. Impossibly reminiscent of innards, her How long can I stay imprinted in your memory? stretches out languidly in the sun streaming through a courtyard window of the gallery. Interrupting the clean gallery space, it reclines like a marble figure of a lady at rest and provokes senses by bringing the unseen insides of the body out onto a plinth.
In a separate vein, a number of works in the show appear to interrogate the effect of architecture and space on the body. Scene for croissant’s film installation depicts a set that is “activated” by the artist’s body. Abdulla Alneyadi’s Urban Presence looks at the city’s corners and how the body is implicated within it. Aisha Al Ahamadi’s room installation of mirrors and LED lights immerses the viewer, reflecting and fragmenting the image of the self through irregularly textured mirrors.
A number of works in the show appear to interrogate the effect of architecture and space on the body.
There is no corner of the SEAF exhibition that doesn’t excite and enthrall in its own right. One would be remiss to skip this rich showing of the work of names we will no doubt be hearing time and time again.
The Community and Critique: Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) 2019/20 Cohort 7 show will run from 14 November to 20 December, 2020.
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Sarah Daher is a curator and researcher who graduated with a BA in Theater and Economics from New York University Abu Dhabi and is currently completing her Masters in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art in London. She is based between the UAE and London. She cares about the role of art in building and preserving communities and shared identities.
All photographs were taken by Sarah Daher at the exhibition venue.
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