In the London art lover’s calendar, June is a busy month, bringing a wave of new artists into the spotlight via the platform of the university degree show. From fine art and fashion, to textiles and ceramics, there really is something for everyone to immerse themselves in at the many art schools across the city, as the next generation of artists share their work and prepare to continue their careers outside of the university.
We wanted to reach out to and showcase a handful of the graduating artists whose practice is inspired by the Arab world in all its diversity and heritage. Some of the artists featured here have made use of traditional methods, transporting ancient rituals into the present day; others have incorporated prevalent themes of the Arab world into their pieces in striking and contemporary ways. But whether looking to the future or to the past, all of them are pushing boundaries – make sure you head to their respective shows this month to see their work in exhibition for yourselves.
Muneera Alsharhan – MA Jewellery at Central Saint Martins, UAL (Show now closed)
Muneera Alsharhan, an award-winning, Kuwaiti fine contemporary jeweller and designer, enjoys creating expressive jewellery collections. Her work explores her relationship with the Arabian Gulf and the links to her reality and identity.
The Desert Blooms is a collection of fine jewellery pieces inspired by the native desert flora of Kuwait. The desert is usually an arid and harsh environment, but under the right conditions, seeds that have been lying dormant for years grow and blossom all at once creating a magical landscape. For Kuwaitis, these desert flowers represent strength, resilience and hope. Consequently the collection is full of soft curves, sensuous volumes and bright un-tamed colours.
Using her extensive knowledge of Kuwait’s jewellery history and of the current market Muneera seeks to create a new authentic Kuwaiti jewellery culture. One not trapped in the past, is respectful of history, yet focused on the future of this country’s now youthful cultural demographic.
Yasmin Hayat – The Prince’s School School of Traditional Arts (Show open until 6th July 2018)
Yasmin Hayat obtained her BA from Central Saint Martins in London before completing an MA in visual Islamic and traditional arts at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. She is an experienced art instructor and has a studio based in London.
In her 2018 exhibition ‘For the Love of Damascus’ Yasmin Hayat aims to dispel the negative stigma surrounding Syria, its people and culture.
Taking inspiration from contemporary Syrian poets such as Qabbani and Adunis, Yasmin changes the narrative on Syria by celebrating the beauty of her heritage through paintings which showcase Syrian monuments, landscape and folklore.
Yasmin has spent the past two years researching the now forgotten practise of Arabic miniature painting, a style which flourished in Syria, Iraq and Egypt but which was later made famous by the Ottomans and Persians. Using imagery and techniques influenced by these early paintings, Yasmin has reintroduced and reminded us of a Syria rife with literature, culture and art.
Yasmin will continue to work using this regional style of painting and has started a body of work exploring the trade routes that run through Syria.
Saeed Almadani – MA in Print at the Royal College of Art (Show open until 1st July 2018)
Saeed Al Madani is an artist from Dubai currently undertaking an MA in Print at the Royal College of Art. He has exhibited internationally and has recently been commissioned to create work for the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial.
Saeed Al Madani has created a series of work titled Between Here and Home for his degree show at the Royal College of Art. Drawing on elements of conceptual, minimalist, and abstract strategies, he explores the relationship between language, place and material form; and the process of writing and non-representational art in articulating attachments and in (de)constructing identities. In the work he recognizes otherness when away from a known, acknowledgeable and understood environment – ‘home’, and aims to make sense of both connections to surroundings and the nearness of things, in order to understand one’s place and cultural embeddedness at a specific point in time. He’s been investigating these notions in various ways; treating gestural writing as image; objects as the materialization of meaning; and print in an expanded form as a vehicle for conceptual enquiry around multiplicity, seriality, and the merging of a process of both being and becoming.
Sarah Al Agroobi – MA at Royal College of Art (Show open until 1st July 2018)
Sarah Al Agroobi is an Emirati artist. Her artistic practice currently lies between the understanding of Arab nomadic culture and identity and diasporic trajectories of socio-political threads. Her work moves through the use of technology and coding to create a relationship between the mechanical hand and the human hand in painting, digital fabrication and performance. She is the recipient of several awards, including two Sheikha Manal Young Artist Awards and the youngest member of Global Women’s Forum – Rising Talents 2016. She is the co-founder of the Arab Art Salon, a ‘hypothetical space’ in London where Arab artists gather to engage in critical thinking and art discourse. Her work has gathered the attention leading design magazines ESTRO, ID and Close-Up and have been exhibited regionally and internationally at Somerset House, London, Salone del Mobile, Milan, Istanbul Design Week, the Venice Biennale, Dutch Design Week, Berlin Art Week.
One of her exhibited pieces, Iqraa, is resin and acrylic on a panel (photo above). Iqraa is the Arabic word for ‘read’, to consume knowledge and to not fall ignorant. Iqraa is said as a command rather than a suggestion. The evocative landscape serves as a process, a moment in time where the work is fully exposed. Colours such as ‘flesh tone’ (a pink hue) were used as a nuance to layers of aggression towards Arab contemporary expression.
Thanks to all the above artists for working with us on this blog, and to the Arab Art Salon for their helpful signposting. For those interested in learning more about Arab artists and arts in London, head to the Arab Art Salon website, for info on more artists, essays and discussion, and upcoming events.