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Silvia Binda Heiserova, Urban Memory 10, Acrylic on canvas, 2017 Image Credit: Supplied

Fann A Porter gallery, Dubai, is collaborating with BBA Gallery Berlin in an initiative that aims to facilitate cross-cultural understanding through art and provide opportunities for artists from the Middle East and Europe to reach a wider audience. As part of this creative interaction, Fann A Porter is hosting an exhibition organised by BBA Gallery titled, Poetics of Change, featuring six European artists, and BBA Gallery is presenting Narratives from the Middle East, a group show by five Arab artists, curated by Fann A Porter. An interesting aspect of this collaboration is that both galleries are founded by women and dedicated to nurturing promising young artists.

Ghada Kunash, founder of Fann A Porter, says, “This initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to participate in cultural exchange around the world and is inspired by the Expo 2020 theme: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. Our aim is to celebrate creativity, enhance artistic opportunities and foster cultural understanding between nations.”

BBA Gallery (Berlin Blue Art) was established in 2015 by artists Renata Kudlacek and Nele Ouwens. Its name refers to the Berlin Blue pigment invented in Berlin in 1706, which is used to draw blueprints and has medical applications as an antidote for poisoning.

“We collaborate with galleries around the globe because we want to give our artists new opportunities to showcase their work. We are delighted to present our first show in this region and to showcase for the first time Middle Eastern artists in our space in Berlin. We are grateful to Lufthansa and AHK-German Emirati Council for Business and Commerce for their support in this project,” Kudlacek says.

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Image Credit: Supplied

The artists featured in Poetics of Change include Vishal Shah, Giulietta Coates, Silvia Binda Heiserova, Susanne Piotter as well as Kudlacek and Ouwens. The show explores themes of transition and transformation through artworks in various media.

“Our show is about looking to the future with an open mind and with hope and not being afraid of change. I am sure that the experience of showing our work in a new place will change us in a positive way,” Ouwens says.

Ouwens has addressed the theme of change by showing different realities in her paintings, which range from realistic depictions of the ever-changing clouds to surrealistic landscapes and imaginary encounters between human beings, animals and nature. Her quirky compositions are inspired by her dreams, memories of places she has visited, popular culture, and everyday life. They reflect her own experience of seeing the industrial and mining area she grew up in changing into a technological service society, and invite viewers to contemplate the changes in their lives and the changing relationship between human beings and nature.

Kudlacek is showing a series of hand-made silk screen prints featuring images of flowers, leaves, butterflies and drawings of fairy tale characters presented in new ways. They represent transitional states of metamorphosis, including the changes in our way of thinking and traditional beliefs caused by new scientific and technological developments.

Coates, a British artist who lives in the South of France uses photographs of her surroundings to create her own mystical interpretations of landscapes. Her abstracted images of rocks, tree stumps and flowing water speak about the process of deterioration and regeneration in nature, and evoke ideas of loss and beauty, fear and longing, reminding us that change is inevitable and must be accepted.

Heiserova, who lives between Bratislava in Slovakia and Valencia, Spain is interested in investigating modern power structures and symbols of superiority and authority. Her abstract geometric paintings express her vision of the urban space as a political arena, where the struggle for power and control is embodied in architecture. She experiments with the repetitive elements in the modern urban space by fragmenting and blending the forms and using different colours to explore the possibility of change within power structures from a feminist perspective.

Giulietta Coates, Cycle: Recalling the Punctum, Reverie des Anglais #1, Giclee print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, 2017

Piotter’s sculptures, which she calls ‘artefacts’ are also inspired by architecture. The Berlin-based German artist playfully uses Lego pieces and her imagination to create small concrete sculptures that look like shells of buildings with unknown functions, which could be failed habitats from the past or structures for the future. She also plays with digital layouts to create hand-painted screen prints of fictional landscapes. Her artworks are a visual representation of the duality of nature versus culture and the role it plays in the transition between past, present and future, and are particularly relevant to rapidly changing places such as the UAE.

Shah, a British Indian, now based in Berlin works as a commercial art director, while also producing and directing independent videos and films. His animated video in this show is titled Epoh, which is ‘hope’ spelt backwards. It tells the story of the adventurous Epoh’s journey from earth to unknown parts of the universe. It shows Epoh, a hot-air balloon with a big eye rising over the city of Mumbai, moving on to Europe and floating over strange places that are hybrids of different cities. A mysterious orb in his basket gives him comfort and the courage to continue his journey of discovery beyond our planet into the unknown and deliver a message of hope. Epoh’s struggles and his message encourage viewers to reflect on their own journeys and the universality of hope.

Fann A Porter’s reciprocal exhibition in Berlin includes works by Emirati artist Mariam Abbas, Palestinian Omar Najjar and Majd Kurdieh, Houssam Ballan and Fadi Attoura from Syria. Najjar’s mixed media paintings depicting ‘structured chaos’ are inspired by everyday life, whereas Abbas is showing a series of detailed pencil and charcoal drawings depicting charming old Arabian spaces in Dubai.

Nele Ouwens, A Rabbit’s Dream, oil on canvas, 2018

Ballan, Kurdieh and Attoura’s work speaks about the tragic situation in their country and its impact on the lives of ordinary Syrians. Ballan’s paintings are portraits of the subconscious depicting inner landscapes and blurred memories. Kurdieh has created a cast of simple, tiny cartoon-like characters, known as Fasaeen to speak about the complexities of life in his war-ravaged country. He always shows the characters smiling despite their hardships conveying a message of hope and action. Fattoura’s paintings, inspired by Optical art and ancient Arabian mosaics, depict carefree, childlike characters determined to overcome the obstacles in their path and move forward.

“This show presents a snapshot of contemporary art in the Arab world and gives emerging Arab artists an opportunity to tell their stories and connect with a new audience in Europe,” Kunash says.

Ouwens adds, “We are excited to show these artists in Berlin because in the current environment of fear and distrust of ‘the other’ cross-cultural interaction is important to break down barriers and change perceptions. Abbas’s presence in the show will help to change Western misconceptions about the status of Arab women, and the work of the Syrian artists shows a different facet of the country offering a window for Westerners to get a more authentic view of Syria.”

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

Poetics of Change will run at Fann A Porter gallery in The Workshop, Al Wasl Road, until March 23.