Dubai: Bady Dalloul is not your everyday artist.
“The other day, I took a taxi. As the conversation with the taxi driver grew, he asked me about the nature of my work. I said it was the same as his: We were both trying to take people places. Migration of the mind, migration of the physical body,” the visiting artist born in Paris to Syrian parents told Gulf News.
The analogy is out of the common. As is ‘A country without a door or windows’, an ongoing exhibition of Dalloul’s gripping matchbox artworks at The Third Line in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue.
From a phenomenal series of 600 miniature drawings done inside matchboxes, 200 are on display.
Ask Dalloul how the idea of the pocket matchbox art came about and he takes us down the memory lane.
“As children, my brother Jad and I would spend summers at our grandparents’ house in Damascus, Syria. To entertain ourselves, we imagined that we were the kings of our own fictional realms. Jad had Jadland, and I, who didn’t speak English at the time, had Badland. The more we wrote and the more we drew about our realms, the more they became real to us. Every printed image reaching our hands was reinterpreted to give more content to our games,” he recalled.
From there on, Dalloul started to collect stamps, newspapers, photos, books and the like and cut them into pieces and preserved them for possible use one day.
“Since 2016, I start drawing ‘A country without a door or a window’ as a daily practice. The work you see at The Third Line today is the third part and perhaps the last, comprising 200 miniature drawings that I placed inside pocket matchboxes. Each drawing is inspired by images I have collected over the years. At first, these tiny pictures were inspired by my boyhood interests, and depicted normal, quotidian scenes,” he explained, adding that the situation back home also began to influence the pictures in due course.
He said, “Arranging them in matchboxes was a way for me to shelter them but also give them a familiar appearance, inviting others to look at them.”
But why would he recommend anyone to view the artworks (on display till July 21)?
“Conceptual art is not my cup of tea,” he answered. “ I draw ordinary daily life subjects, the same way one reads your newspaper, if someone visiting my exhibition doesn’t understand it, I consider that I have failed in delivering my idea.”
He said by drawing the overwhelming images around him at the scale of his hand, it is his way of “taking control of them, digesting them and arranging them in a way that invites others to see, digest and understand them too.”
According to him, “We are all (willingly or not) witnesses, carrying on with our lives. I see people keeping small images everywhere around me, a relative’s picture in a wallet, a revered place to carry in the heart. I can see heroes and places fit for my drawings all around me.”
He explained how the juxtaposition of drawings in each group gives narration in a discontinuous line of matchboxes. “Drawings inside each group are indivisible but the position of each group can be changed within and can be exhibited partly or as an ensemble. Although each group follows its own logic, it can be interpreted in different ways by the viewer. Sometimes colour is the link between every element, sometimes it is the geographical place that draws them together, at times it is very identifiable. It is in fact a game I ‘play’ with the viewer. Will you recognise Damascus? The UAE Mars Probe of last year? The only Syrian cosmonaut who now lives as a refugee in Turkey? Dubai Creek? And so on.”
He said, “In my work, I am conveying a narration that would be delivered only if you look carefully, allowing the viewer to build his/her own perception and judgment. I don’t believe it is my role to name anyone, I am just trying put everything on the table at this precise moment. I am only a witness.”
Dalloul, whose art has been exhibited to raving reviews worldwide, studied art history at Sorbonne Abu Dhabi in 2007 followed by fine arts at Beaux-Arts de Paris.
The artist is hugely impressed by Dubai. “I see a very diverse and unique art scene here, a rare wealth of different cultures and points of views available to anyone willing to walk on bridges. Tokyo, where I live today, offers a fascinating art scene too. Dubai is culturally diverse.”