Hamra Abbas COLOR | GARDEN

8 March - 7 May 2022
  • COLOR | GARDEN is  Hamra Abbas’ fourth solo exhibition at the gallery, presenting a set of conceptual prints alongside new marble inlay works that extend her investigation of color theory, geometry and the garden motif in architecture. The exhibition coincides with her Expo 2020 Dubai public art commission Garden (2021) - a magnificent utopian garden created on a grand scale, combining vibrant colored stones into images of waterfalls, trees, flowers, skies and mountains. COLOR | GARDEN she revisits some of these motifs but on a more intimate scale.


  • Hamra Abbas, Garden, 2021, Marble, lapis lazuli, granite, serpentine, pink calcite, jasper, 975 x 914 cm © Hamra Abbas 2021. Commissioned by Expo 2020 Dubai. Expo 2020 Dubai Collection. Photograph by Roman Mensing
  • Every Color 2 (2022)
    Every Color 2 (2022)

    Every Color 2 (2022), comprised of six monochromatic digital prints, builds upon Abbas' seminal series Kaaba Picture as a Misprint (2014) in which she deconstructs a black square to reveal hidden multiplicity in cyan, magenta and yellow. In her most recent iteration Abbas goes a step further, setting the hues free from their shapes to create individual color blocks, so that what were once components of the black square are now no longer bound by it.

  • In these monochromatic colored abstractions, I extract primary and secondary color swatches from the monolithic black or vice versa to symbolize multiplicity and diversity, the many ways people can engage with matters of faith, ritual, and devotion.

  • Installation view of Hamra Abbas, COLOR | GARDEN, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, 2022
  • Tree 1 (2022)
    Tree 1 (2022)

    Abbas’ phenomenology of color takes a new direction in her experimentation with the potentialities of marble inlay (pietra dura), breaking new ground as she pulls this traditional practice away from its historical function to create a new form of aesthetics. Her works reference the Mogul architecture of Lahore Fort and its traditional use of garden motifs, where idyllic images of landscapes epitomize paradise and perfection, immortality and mortality; an earthly utopia in which humans coexist with nature in perfect harmony.


    In Tree (2022) Abbas appropriates an image of a cypress tree engraved in the Palace of Mirrors in Lahore Fort, and reimagines it enriched with vivid blocks of color that recall the paintings of Paul Klee and the geometric patterns synonymous with Bauhaus architecture. Abbas’ Flower (2022) series, on the other hand, are much softer, baring the aesthetic of 19th century still life paintings such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

  • I started making marble inlay works with elements borrowed from historic architectural sites in Lahore, mainly featuring fragments of a...

    I started making marble inlay works with elements borrowed from historic architectural sites in Lahore, mainly featuring fragments of a garden, i.e.,  flower, tree, fruit, waterfall, color. I interpreted this imagery under the gardens of paradise framework. It gave a context to read the ornamentation at these sites, especially places of religious and devotional practice like mosques or shrines and imperial enclosures such as tombs, forts, or palaces. I tried to address the notion of desire and devotion through these images to understand what they seek to communicate, which is supposed to be beyond description. It led me to think about the relationship between ideology and aesthetics.

    • Hamra Abbas, Flower 1, 2022
      Hamra Abbas, Flower 1, 2022
    • Hamra Abbas, Flower 2, 2022
      Hamra Abbas, Flower 2, 2022
  • Installation view of Hamra Abbas, COLOR | GARDEN, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, 2022
  • Mountain 1 (2022)
    Mountain 1 (2022)

    In Mountain 1 (2022) - a magnificent triptych made entirely out of lapis lazuli - Abbas takes in the iconic imagery of K2 Mountain. Captured by countless photographers, this archetypal image of white snow, rock formations and perfect blue skies has become a symbol for the quest of perfection and truth.

  • Mountains are important in various religious traditions worldwide, often seen as sacred spaces, a connection between earth and heaven, places of revelation, and a symbol of fertility. We can see the image of K2 (the world’s second-highest mountain) as synonymous with the visual identity of Pakistan; hence I made multiple drawings of K2 and incorporated it into Garden. Mountain 1 (2022) is based on one of these drawings.

  • Unlike the other works in the exhibition, I decided to create the image entirely from various shades of lapis lazuli....

    Unlike the other works in the exhibition, I decided to create the image entirely from various shades of lapis lazuli. Working on this piece was an enormous challenge as it was dificult to see the image because of the minimal tonal variations of lapis. Only when the piece was polished, after many months of work, I was  finally able to see the  finished product.

  • Installation view of Hamra Abbas, COLOR | GARDEN, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, 2022
  • Waterfall (2022)
    Waterfall (2022)

    Finally, her Waterfall (2022) series consists of repeated chevron patterns in bold colors that extend across and down each piece. Analogous to the divided colors in her Misprints, the chevron patterns fuse her color investigations and her marble inlay sculptures into a seamless body of work. 

    I was drawn  to the material interplay between the color of stones and the representation of nature. But at the same time, I feel that the imagery of trees,  flowers, waterfalls cuts across cultures and art history, and therefore carries the power to speak to all in its most elementary form. 

  • Hamra Abbas, Waterfall 2, 2022
  • Hamra Abbas (b. 1976, Kuwait)
    Hamra Abbas (b. 1976, Kuwait)

    Hamra Abbas received her BFA and MA in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts, Lahore in 1999 and 2002 respectively before attending Universitaet der Kuenste in Berlin where she did the Meisterschueler in 2004. She has exhibited internationally with recent solo and group exhibitions including: COLOR | GARDEN, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai (2022), Color Wheel, Canvas gallery, Karachi (2021), Precaution, ARTER, Istanbul, Turkey (2021); Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, Barefoot Gallery, Colombo (2021); Under Construction, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai (2021); and Every Colour is a Shade of Black, COMO Museum of Art, Lahore (2020). Her work has been exhibited as part of the Karachi Biennale Karachi (2019, 2017) and the Lahore Biennale (2018). Abbas is an Honoree of the Asia Arts Game Changer Awards 2021. She is the recipient of the Jury prize at Sharjah Biennial 9, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize in 2009. In 2021, Abbas presented Garden (2021) - a large-scale public art intervention commissioned under the Expo 2020 Dubai Public Art Programme, and intended to remain on site as part of the future city of District 2020. Her work is part of significant collections, including: the British Museum, London, UK; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas, USA; 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky, USA; Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, USA; USA Art In Embassies Collection, USA; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Koç Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey; Borusan Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey; Kadist Collection, Paris, France; Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium; Devi Art Foundation, Guragon, India; Kiran Nader Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), Saudi Arabia; Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, UAE. Abbas currently lives and works in Lahore.