Contemporary Narratives

Barjeel Art Foundation

The Barjeel Art Foundation hosts and exhibits a collection of modern & contemporary works from the Arab world and Arab artists internationally. In this online exhibition, we focus on works that are produced around the conditions and stories of our contemporary moment. 

Ali Cherri’s art practice typically begins with a line of inquiry or investigation as he explores personal, cultural and political relationships with the mass of images available in the public domain.

Paying close attention to the political undercurrents of the past and present, Cherri’s areas of research vary from current affairs to ancient history.

In Trembling Landscapes, the artist depicts cities in aerial images: Algiers, Beirut, Damascus, Erbil, Mecca, and Tehran. Here he highlights underlying fault lines – both geological and political.

With an oeuvre spanning four decades, Mona Hatoum is one of today’s most established contemporary artists. Through a wide variety of media, Hatoum’s work ranges from global politics to the body.

Hatoum’s works often play on one’s sense of familiarity. Her awareness of human interaction, both interpersonal and geopolitical, is expressed through employing often everyday objects in her practice.

Plotting Table evokes the tabletop maps that have aided in military maneuvers and drawing of borders throughout history. The illumination of points throughout show this taking place on a global scale.

Similarly here, Mona Hatoum's use of seemingly ordinary objects – a small table and toy soldiers – evokes a sense of never-ending conflict and the domestication of war.

For the past half-century, Etel Adnan’s work as a thinker, writer, and artist has offered a glimpse into a multiplicity of subjects; love, language, and war.

The artist’s bright use of colours and interest in abstraction turns to tapestry...

...where both the loose and meandering mapping of shapes, paired with the title, allude to a vast network of interconnected oil fields.

Working in a range of materials from industrial fiberglass, polymer, steel, and plaster, Diana Al Hadid embraces an experimental approach to form that is both labour intensive and thematically rich.

Al Hadid draws on various sources, including biblical and mythological narratives, Gothic and Islamic architecture... ways that invoke architecture’s potency as a symbol of civilization and power.

An important artist emerging from the Lebanese post-war generation of the 1990s the research-based practice of Walid Raad straddles fiction and the uncertainties of everyday reality.

The construction of histories, particularly in relation to the Lebanese Civil War, is woven into Raad’s oeuvre, including his 15-year project The Atlas Group (1989-2004), a fictional research archive.

This work shows aspects of a notebook and other ephemera attributed to a Dr. Fakhouri, a fictional historian that logged of every car used as a car bomb during the Lebanese Civil War (1975).

Everyday stories and experiences of life in occupied Palestine, largely uncovered by media outlets, are sensitively – and sometimes sardonically – explored in Jarrar’s multifaceted body of work.

Volleyball is from a series of works Jarrar created using concrete extracted from the apartheid wall. Creating playful objects, he poignantly comments on the difficulties of children under occupation.

Larissa Sansour works across the mediums of photography, video, and installation, and reflects on contemporary history and the political situation of Palestine through the lens of science fiction.

Nation Estate is comprised of a short film with photographs in which the artist imagines a Palestinian state housed in a futuristic skyscraper.

Playing the protagonist, Sansour reflects on geopolitical and ideological barriers that define the conflict and offers a possible solution that is paradoxically both idealistic and alienated.

The multi-disciplinary work of Charbel-Joseph H. Boutros is inspired by the legacy of conceptualism. His work is often poetic in its visual simplicity, yet intricate in its conceptual explorations.

In From Water to Water, the artist took out a volume of water from a pond, transported it to an industrial cooler, and transformed the water into a block of ice.

The ice was then returned to the banks of the pond from which it came. Slowly seeping back into the water, this seemingly simple gesture approaches broader questions about exile and return...

In the process of changing location and form, a question arises about whether the water has been altered in some way.

Hayv Kahraman’s work often addresses gendered identity, inequality and sexual violence through a range of media from painting to drawing to installation and sculpture.

Inspired by Persian miniatures and Japanese painting, Kahraman’s voluptuous female characters partake in activities that border on the grotesque with unsettling grace and apathy.

These activities are often of female beautification rituals and show the inherent violence that underlies altering the female body to fit a social ideal.

Huda Lutfi is known for her multimedia works that deploy found and constructed imagery of icons and archetypes drawn from found objects, popular culture, and everyday life.

A trained cultural historian, Huda Lutfi’s practice often incorporates repeated figures, in many cases the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthoum, and a deep knowledge of her native city, Cairo.

In The City Goes Pop, Lutfi’s dense construction of storefronts, mannequins, and signage evokes hustle-bustle atmosphere of Cairo’s streets, and impossibly frail towers extend far into the sky.

Raafat Ishak works with painting, drawing, and installation to reflect on a range of topics that include cross-cultural dialogue, immigration rights, and the current political situation in Egypt.

In Nomination for the Presidency of the New Egypt a long scroll, a reference to Pharaonic history, details a proposed party’s manifesto that promises a new future for a post-Mubarak Egypt.

Sadik Kwaish Al Fraji is a multimedia artist who works in drawing, painting, video animation, art books, graphic art, and installation.

Often working in black and white, Al Fraji uses a shadowy, solitary character to visually convey the fragmentation, loss, and nostalgia associated with life in exile.

The House My Father Built is a multimedia video work, whose dimensions tower several meters in height, and outlines a narrative of separation by war, and the death of the artist’s father.

Credits: Story

Exhibition curators:
Karim Sultan, Director
Mandy Merzaban, Founding Curator
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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