WKR 191128 Dominic Benhura signing a finished work.-1575110915049

DUBAI Over the last decade, interest in sculpture has grown worldwide. This is reflected in the focus on this art form at major art fairs, exhibitions and institutions as well as in sales at auctions.

Echoing this trend, many galleries in Dubai are hosting sculpture exhibitions during the current art season, which opened in mid-November.

Green Art Gallery is presenting Chaouki Choukini’s abstract wood sculptures, and Meem Gallery is showcasing black granite sculptures by Armen Agop.

Reza Aramesh’s figurative sculptures are on display at Leila Heller Dubai, and Amba Sayal-Bennett is showing sculptures crafted from steel, wood and foam at Carbon 12 gallery.

At El Marsa, Atef Maatallah has experimented with stone mosaics, and Hamra Abbas is exhibiting marble inlay works at Lawrie Shabibi.

In a major public art exhibition, DIFC has collaborated with Dubai based art consultancy 71Structural Art to open the inaugural edition of the DIFC Sculpture Park, featuring sculptures by 10 well-known local and international sculptors.

This week we look at two exhibitions featuring sculptures made from very different materials — Venice goes to Dubai at Akka Project showcasing Murano glass sculptures from Italy, and Between Me and the Stone, a group exhibition of Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe at Showcase Gallery.

Venice Goes to Dubai

This show is part of an initiative by Akka Project, which has spaces in Dubai and Venice, to foster a dynamic cultural dialogue between the two cities.

As a first step, the gallery has brought to Dubai works by two acclaimed Venetian artists, painter Davide Battistin and Murano glass sculptor Mauro Bonaventura. Both artists use classical Venetian art and craft techniques to create contemporary artworks and are known for their skilful use of light and colour.

WKR 191128 Venice -Dubai - Davide Batistin - Bacino San Marco.-1575110922199

Battistin’s poetic paintings depict his city’s distinctive landscape and the lagoon on a foggy day. The pale golden light shining through the shroud of fog gives them a dreamy, mystical quality.

On the other hand, Bonaventura’s shimmering transparent glass sculptures invite viewers to look deep into an inner world.

The sculptor is a master of the technique of lampworking and pushes the possibilities of his delicate, ductile and difficult material to the limit, manipulating the glass to create complex forms and figures pulsating with life and movement.

Keeping in mind Dubai’s glamorous image and lofty ambitions, the artist has created a pair of red glass stilettoes especially for this show. It is a tribute by an artist from a historic trading and art centre to a city poised to be the economic and cultural hub of the future.

Venice Goes to Dubai, Akka Project, Al Quoz. Until January 11, 2020.

Viewing is by appointment only. For appointments, write to hello@akkaproject.com.

Between Me and the Stone

Showcase Gallery’s exhibition of Shona stone sculpture from Zimbabwe includes works by Dominic Benhura, Lovemore Bonjisi, Gregory Mutasa, Bywell Sango, Leonard Sezhendo, and David White.

Named after the predominant Shona tribe, Shona sculpture became known internationally in the 1950s through exhibitions featuring a new generation of sculptors who moved away from traditional mythological themes and developed a profoundly simple and direct way of expressing universal human experiences and emotions.

It is now considered to be the most important art movement emerging from Africa in the 20th century.

Benhura, one of Zimbabwe’s most well-known sculptors, speaks about his work in this exhibition:

Why did you focus on the theme of mother and child?

I like this theme because it is universal, and everybody can relate with it. I want my sculptures to be joyful and positive, so I celebrate the bond of love and trust between mother and child.

My pieces showing children doing cartwheels or dancing and little girls proudly showing off their colourful dresses are often inspired by my three daughters. I have always been fascinated with nature and also make sculptures of animals and plants.

My sculptures of a zebra and a rhinoceros have recently been installed at the Sharjah Safari Park.

How do you express emotion, movement and balance through stone?

I make sketches of my ideas as they come to me. Once I select the slab of Springstone for a piece, I destroy the sketch so that I am not restricted by it.

It is now between me and the stone. I express emotions through the forms, movement and the whimsical balance of the figures. I never make facial features on my figures because I want them to represent all the mothers and children of the world.

What inspired you to experiment with inlay in your recent works?

Since women and girls love to wear beautiful dresses, I began using pieces of painted glass and inlays of coloured stones to make dots, flowers and hearts on my stone dresses.

I have now developed a technique of using a mixture of ground dolomite stones and glue to create more complex patterns, including those found at ancient heritage sites in Zimbabwe.

'Between Me and the Stone' at Showcase Gallery, Alserkal Avenue. Until January 18, 2020.