The National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition at the Biennale Arte 2022 (Venice Biennale) is titled Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset.The exhibition presents a new body of work created for the National Pavilion UAE by Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, a veteran of the experimental art community in the UAE. Curated by Maya Allison, Executive Director of The New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, Between Sunrise and Sunset is a room-filling sculpture made from 128 abstract and organic elements. The work draws from Ibrahim’s deep connection to the local environment of his hometown, Khor Fakkan – a city harbouring the rocky Al Hajar mountains on the east coast of the Emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is curated by New York based Italian curator and artistic director Cecilia Alemani under the theme The Milk of Dreams, which questions the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, and the connection between bodies and earth. In resonance with this theme, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s biomorphic sculptures cluster in undulating colour and movement – suggesting bodies, mutation, and metamorphosis. These forms arrive from his physical dialogue with the materials of the work: accretions of papier-mâché are built up over loose skeleton structures that shift and settle into their final position as he works. Often incorporating actual earth, leaves, tea, coffee, and tobacco, the texture of the forms derives from his raw materials.
The exhibition is Ibrahim and Allison’s fifth collaboration and the third book that Allison has produced that studies Ibrahim’s work, with the first two looking at his work in the context of his milieu. The accompanying publication, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset is the first monograph of Ibrahim’s work, and is co-edited by Allison and and Cristiana de March, herself an artist, poet, and curator, who has worked on writing and editing books related to this artistic community for some time. The editors have commissioned new texts that explore Ibrahim’s work from multiple vantage points, representing a major contribution to the UAE’s art history. Documenting and archiving part of the country’s longest-standing avant-garde art community, the book will make new material and histories available for future scholars, bringing these untold stories of the UAE into the contemporary art world narrative.
This exhibition marks the National Pavilion UAE’s move towards an artist-led approach, whereby Ibrahim nominated Allison to curate.
Images courtesy of National Pavilion UAE La Biennale di Venezia. Photos by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things