Arab art in the spotlight at Sotheby’s
DUBAI: Most art exhibitions give the artist the opportunity to display their finished works, but Jordanian designer Raya Kasssieh hopes to reveal the complex process that allows a work of art to come to fruition just as much as the final form of the work itself.
“This exhibition is about investigations and starting points,” the Dubai-based artist told Arab News at the opening of her first solo exhibition, “An Informal Affair With Bayt Al-Mamzar.”
“These are usually vulnerable areas that artists try to hide or keep inside, but the process is actually the essence of my work.”
The three-week exhibition opened March 11 at Dubai’s Bayt Al-Mamzar, a villa-turned-art space tucked away on a quiet street in Al-Mamzar, a neighborhood sandwiched between Sharjah and Dubai.
The multipurpose art space was developed by Emirati brothers Khalid and Gaith Abdulla, former curator of Louvre Abu Dhabi, and includes artist studios, a gallery, a residence, a coworking and events space and projections on the roofs.
The space will host Kasssieh’s charcoal drawings and copper sculptures until April 5.
Kasssieh began his visit to the exhibition with a series of drawings, titled “Man Hours”.
“It’s very visceral, and I hope it shows and captures the work that goes into it. It’s a literal process where there’s a very real touch to it,” she explained.
Process art, a movement that began in the United States and Europe in the mid-1960s, believes that the end product of an artist’s effort is not the primary goal and that the steps that go into the production of a work of art are also relevant. The movement promotes the idea that the creative process can be a work of art in itself.
While most process artists use perishable and transient materials, such as steam, ice, and sawdust, Kasssieh chose to explore everyday materials, including cement, fiber, gauze and wool.
The bodies of work in “An Informal Affair” that most strikingly explore the idea of process include life-size bust sculptures fashioned by Kasssieh covering his torso with cement and plastic wrap, allowing the interaction of his body and elements dictate the end result. .
“Both body casts are investigations of my literal body as opposed to the rest of the works, which are investigations of what my body can do and what our bodies in general can do,” the 31-year-old artist said.
Fascinated by the way fashion and art intersect, the art exhibition also includes a series of works which are an amalgamation of silk, glue, gauze, paint and linen transferred onto a canvas that the alum from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute equates to flesh.
“I want the conversation to focus on the fact that the process is beautiful, worth sharing and talking about, and takes time. It’s OK to have many starting points and they all come together. You walk into the space and you can try to isolate them, but there’s an element of texture that can’t be ignored.
In an exhibition full of fascinating works of art, Kasssieh’s hanging wool sculptures are a highlight, largely because the artist was introduced to a large community of women who taught her how to knit in order to help produce the hand-woven installations.
“There is a nice community effort and, again, a very feminine tradition of sitting down and knitting together. So that’s what really created these great works,” she said.
The exhibition is linked to a series of copper works, including one that debuted at the 8th edition of Art Dubai at Madinat Jumeirah earlier this month.
“I am intrigued by copper. It is found in the earth, in our bodies, in the cables that run through the internet world,” she said.
“Copper is an incredible conductor of heat and electricity. The reason this piece of copper wire is called “Swaddle” is because there’s something beautiful about adorning a baby with a blanket that will reach their same body temperature.
“But there’s a hardness to the metal, so you can’t necessarily do that. So it’s just an ironic take on trying to understand this constant search for comfort and reassurance.
Kasssieh reveals that she wants her works “to be something that makes you think about how you feel about your body and how you feel about the constructs we live in.”
Indeed, each of the artworks is visually stunning, but these are creations that would not have materialized in the end without each step of the process.