To celebrate the UAE’s observance of 2016 as the ‘Year of Reading’, La Galerie, at Alliance Française Dubai is presenting an exhibition, The Ink Project, featuring works by three artists who explore the notion of reading, writing and mark making in their individual ways. Emirati artist, Nasir Nasrallah’s intimate drawings on postcards evoke nostalgia about the fast disappearing art of letter writing and the joy of receiving letters by post from loved ones and reading their stories. US-based Belgian artist Joëlle Verstraëten’s artworks seek to read the hidden language of music; and Pakistani artist Sarah Mumtaz’s imaginative ballpoint illustrations take viewers back to the fantasy world of story books read in childhood. All three artists have used the medium of ink on paper to explore the idea of reading and writing as an art form. The show has been organised by Antidote Art & Design.
Nasrallah has a degree in telecommunication engineering but whilst studying engineering, he also took art courses at the Emirates Fine Arts Society (EFAS), and has showcased his work at exhibitions around the world. He is currently the vice-president of the EFAS. He is also an Ambassador for the UAE Board on Books for Young People.
“These spontaneous, subconsciously done drawings are like a visual diary of my everyday life, and depict my inner world,” says Emirati artist Nasir Nasrallah
The artist experiments with various media, materials and methods, ranging from found objects to mathematical theorems, to express his feelings about his environment. His postcard-size drawings in this show are from a series titled, Post Card to the Author. The compositions feature an amalgam of human and animal figures, machines, including telecom equipment, trees and flowers, planets and other cosmic elements, and his thoughts written by hand in Arabic.
“These spontaneous, subconsciously done drawings are like a visual diary of my everyday life, and depict my inner world. The telecom equipment, the figures, and the words in these drawings are essentially about communication. There is a personal story behind each composition but I want to invite every viewer to relate to the figures and symbols in their own way and to create their own story. Hence, I called this series, Post Card to the Author,” Nasrallah says.
The series reflects his love for snail mail and post offices. In fact, in a bid to revive this traditional means of communication, and to introduce a generation that probably has never used it, to the fun and excitement of receiving mail in a real letter box, the artist has embarked on a project, where he plans to send one hand-painted postcard by snail mail to somebody every day throughout this year. The artist is asking people who wish to receive a postcard to share their postal address with him.
Mumtaz works in ballpoint, printmaking and performance. Her ballpoint drawings — from a series titled, Bunny Tales & Tea Parties, present a personal narrative based on childhood memories. Filled with strange anthropomorphic rabbits, birds and other creatures, the drawings are quirky and humorous but with an underlying narrative about loneliness and lost love and the need to make up imaginary friends to fill the void.
Pakistani artist Sarah Mumtaz’s imaginative ballpoint illustrations take viewers back to the fantasy world of story books read in childhood
“These drawings are based on my hazy childhood memories of fantasising about a secret garden with white vintage wrought iron tables around which I sat with imaginary friends such as furry bunnies and chirpy nightingales, sipping tea, chatting about ‘important’ matters that concerned me and laughing a lot. My work is about the constant transformation of my thought processes and the birth of a new me as I continue to discover every day, new, unexplored facets of my mind. Although, some of these changes are painful and leave you with a feeling of emptiness and loneliness, I feel that this loneliness can be beautiful in a bittersweet way and help you to evolve as an individual, just as a caterpillar develops wings after a period of isolated hibernation,” she says.
Verstraëten works in mixed media painting, and monotypes, where she explores found objects as printing material, to reveal their texture and hidden beauty. She is showing works from a series of Music Paper Installations, where she has used the perforated paper, found in barrel organs, in a quest to reveal the rhythm of the carefully aligned perforations.
“The aesthetic of the perforated paper is an invitation I could not resist. After having used LPs and etched CDs in my printmaking process, I directly connected with the languages of the fragile red paper that is introduced in the popular street organ. Like a secret message, my compositions try to reveal the rhythm of the perforations. Each small dot is not randomly punched, it is aligned or shifted to participate to the whole opera. The bright carmine colour of the paper encourages me to narrow the spectrum of the many colours I like and use the fundamental print making language of black ink on white paper. I have used the processes of cutting, folding, layering, printing and gluing to create the dense, dramatic and minimalist prints in this series. For the installation in this show, the prints are carefully hung on the wall to continue the creative work of the French composer Gounod, with each one participating in the melody of the tragic opera “Mireille” written by him in 1864,” the artist says.
The Ink Project will run at La Galerie, Alliance Française Dubai until February 28.