The latest edition of the Doha Fire Station Artist in Residence exhibition, titled ‘Infinite Dimensions’, is taking place at the Garage Gallery until 1 September, and includes works by alumni and faculty from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar).
Presented in three main sections – ‘Tangible Spectrums’, ‘The Edge of Thoughts’, and ‘Visual Sphere’ – the exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to discover and explore more about local contemporary and conceptual art, through the display of a wide range of unusual artworks, art practices and mediums.
Curated by Dr Bahaa Abudaya and Saida Al Khulaifi, the end of year exhibition explores the question of conceptualism in artistic practice. The 18 artists, 14 of whom are VCUarts Qatar alumni and faculty, were invited to explore and experiment with new ideas and media to gain a better understanding of the meaning behind conceptual artworks, focusing on ideas and their context, rather than their aesthetics.
The alumni are Abdulla Al-Kuwari, Ala Bata, Eman Makki, Lolwa Al Solaiti, Maryam Al Ameri, Nourbanu Hijazi, Roda Al-Khori, Sara Al-Fadaaq, Shaikha Al Hardan, and Sidra Zubairi, and the faculty members are Nayla Ahmed, Federica Visani, Jesse Payne, and Michael Perrone.
In the ‘Visual Sphere’ section, for example, themes of popular culture, local landscapes, outer space and fantasy creatures are presented. In it, alumna Sidra Zubairi’s work pays tribute to what is now a memory by looking at Doha’s roundabouts, while Sara Al-Fadaaq uses digital and analogue techniques to explore and reference the history, psychology and social elements of Middle Eastern car culture.
In ‘Printer Up Above the World So High’, alumna Eman Makki focuses on the unimaginable quantity of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is estimated to contain more than 100 billion stars. Sitting on a plinth, a printer generates a series of marks printed continuously and in real-time on a roll of paper. Data documenting the number of stars was entered into a bespoke software program, and each mark printed on the paper is placed by the software to approximate the variations in size and the relative distance between stars in the Milky Way, with each mark representing a single star.
In the Tangible Spectrums section, alumnus Al Bata uses everyday subjects to create provocative scenes, such as with ‘Better Luck Next Time’ (meranti wood, stainless steel and egg) in which an egg sits on a door handle.
Alumna Nourbanu Hijazi’s work, titled ‘Demons’ explores parallels between the perception of the paranormal and mental illness in the context of an Arabic Islamic society, and examines those ideas through the representation of the Jathoom (an evil jinn/spirit attacking people in their sleep), and sleep paralysis, a sleep disorder characterised by the temporary inability to move or speak when one is waking up or falling asleep. The creatures depicted in Nourbanu’s work are inspired by her own experienced with sleep disorders.
In ‘The Edge Of Thoughts’ section, the artists explore the memories and stories of belonging. Alumnus Abdulla Al-Kuwari’s ‘The Ancient Structure’ aims for the partial resemblance of a visual language from an era long gone, while the handwritten lyrics on Shaikha Al-Hardan’s ‘Reminiscence’ give a hint of how certain things such as music can trigger a specific memory to come to life.
‘Infinite Dimensions’ is taking place at the Garage Gallery at Doha Fire Station until September 1 and is free and open to the public.
Find out more about VCUarts Qatar at qatar.vcu.edu