Beyond Boundaries

Sabr Dri Photography, The Deer on the Road, 2016. Photograph. Courtesy the artist, YSP and ArtRole

I travelled up to Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the first nice day of 2017, to review Beyond Boundaries: Art By Email, an exhibition that focused on how border controls exert limits on creativity. These restrictions helped to frame the boundaries of the exhibition itself, which invited work only from artists who would find travel to the UK prohibitively difficult. 

It is in the digital realm, in the dissolution of territory and nation, where art and ideas are made free. This, at least, is the philosophy at the source of Beyond Boundaries: Art By Email, a collaboration between Yorkshire Sculpture Park and ArtRole that brings art from the Middle East to the North of England. Initially conceived as a more conventional on-site exhibition, the curators were forced to review in order to circumvent the border restrictions experienced by artists who attempt to travel from the Middle East region to the UK in order to show work. An open call invited submissions that could be transmitted by email, from artists who would find travel to the UK prohibitively difficult. The outcomes are more interesting than might originally have resulted from a more general commission, as questions are posed about the function and efficacy of border procedures and the limits of creativity.

You can read the full review here:


The Sea Suspended

Shakir Hassan: Jala Aidun (Evacuation, We Will Return)

Next month, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art opens an exhibition of modern Arab art, extracted from the UAE-based Barjeel Foundation. The show – which marks a landmark cultural exchange between Iran and its Arab neighbours – comes in the midst of an ongoing wave of historicisation that seeks to rebalance art historical narratives that privilege Western artists.

What if you could suspend the cultural, political and geographical boundaries that separate and confine us? What if the sea that would drown you became solid, allowing you to walk across and greet your neighbours? In bringing Arab Modernism to Tehran, The Sea Suspended imagines such a meeting, and extends a historical invitation to reflect on a shared modern heritage.

The article continues here:

Creative Complaining


I was so excited to see the Guerrilla Girls in London. I didn’t know that their project was still as active, or that they’ve been working so prominently in Europe. Their work continues to be performatively scandalous, but this exhibition is rooted in a dogged examination of data that reveals the enduring perversion of the art world: a tedious subservience to wealth and power. 

The Guerrilla Girls know how to silence a room. Dressed head-to-toe in black, their faces concealed behind snarling masks, the impression is something between a gang of bank robbers and superheroes in disguise. It’s unexpected when they speak in bright, amiable tones, approaching visitors to shake hands and pose for pictures. The somewhat jarring incongruity in this approach echoes the central tension between aggression and playfulness in their work, at its most distinctive in the lurid pink and yellow billboards that splashed shameful statistics on racial and gender imbalances in the art world during the 1980s.

Ms. and BUST have published the whole article in these places:

Around the World and Back Again


I was asked by Salaam Gateway to write a monthly column about Islamic Art. In this first piece, I looked at the restitution of an important Afghan bowl as a way of framing a larger question about cultural heritage. 

It’s difficult to get a grip on the meaning of cultural heritage. Notions of belonging, value, and memory can seem abstract and academic, but the discovery of a trafficked object has pushed these ideas into a more tangible framework. In a case that involved collectors, an auction house, and two museum authorities, the private market worked in tandem with the public sector towards a resolution that didn’t prioritise personal or corporate profit. Instead, a piece of cultural heritage, stolen over twenty years ago, was recovered and restored to its rightful context. The object in question, an Islamic tinned copper vessel, was ripped from its place in the National Museum of Afghanistan and condemned to obscurity for two decades before bobbing once again to the surface earlier this year.

The rest of the piece is here:


Many Rivers to Cross


I met with Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, a Netherlands-based Iraqi artist, to talk about his travelling exhibition ‘Ali’s Boat’. Sadik’s soulful video works evolve from ink and charcoal; his sketchbooks act almost as an excavation of his personal stories, which overlay political and national narratives.

Encounters with place, memory, and identity arise as questions in Ali’s Boat, a highly personal multimedia installation by Iraqi-born artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji. Curated by Nat Muller and accompanied by a book launch surveying Sadik’s major output, the exhibition’s success in Dubai has been in no way subdued by its migration to London, where it was shown during the recent Shubbak Festival, and where it will remain on display until the end of August. A story deconstructed and rebuilt, which simmered in Sadik’s subconscious for a decade, Ali’s Boat follows the first meeting with his nephew in his native Baghdad. The notions of memory, home, and journeying – which might jostle for space in a more constrained work – find fulfilment in Sadik’s immersive video narrative…

The piece continues here:

Light Fantastic

House of St. Barnabas

This article drew together recent work by the artists Bill Viola and Rupert Newman. They had each produced work that asked similar questions about spatial textures and meanings, using light as the primary material.

Light and colour have always been an important trope in Christian art and allegory; illiterate medieval congregations would have looked at the stained glass images to decode the Latin Mass they were unable to understand. Projection mapping connects the digital to the physical, and in Rupert Newman’s light projections, to the spiritual …

You can read the full piece here: