Three Mid-Career Artists from the Middle East to Watch
We have grown accustomed to emerging young talents making headlines and even breaking auction records. Remember the phenomenal rise of Colombian Oscar Murillo in 2013/2014? However, they should not overshadow the more established artists who have been steadily developing their practice. Here I focus on three artists from the Middle East whose work continues to evolve with time.
GOLNAZ LAVASANI (B. 1979 - )
Lavasani is a mixed media Iranian artist who has long been preoccupied with environmental degradation. Using her art as the voice of Mother Nature, she brings our attention to one of the most pressing issues of the century; water shortage.
For more than 10 years, Chile has experienced a mega drought in its central region that has not been reversed until today. In the summer of 2019, Europe experienced an unprecedented heat wave that affected its green fields and crop yield. Nowadays, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are fighting over their share of the River Nile. Lavasani like all environmentalists is urging us to start acting now. By drawing our attention to the impending doom, she hopes that we will slowly change our consumption habits.
Her latest exhibition; Water Play, which was held at the Shirin Gallery in Tehran between the 10th and 22nd July 2020 and still on show on Biafarin Online Gallery until 10 August 2020 is comprised of eight mixed-media installations that are hung on walls, laid flat on the floor or free-standing sculptures. She recalls the story of Tishtar; the deity of all waters and fountainhead of all roaring springs from Persian mythology in her artist statement. Her hope is that such stories and her work will encourage us to amend our abuse of water usage and the environment overall.
You can purchase her latest pieces from Biafarin website here.
GHAZWAN ALLAF (B. 1973 - )
Syrian sculptor Allaf remained in Syria and continued to produce artworks during the years of war. Like a good soldier he believed it was his duty to stay behind and fight with his artworks those "whose aim was to erase our cultural identity".
His latest body of work includes a tree with exposed roots that often wrap around one of his renown closed-eyes faces. Besides its symbolic presence, the tree adds an organic delicate form to Allaf's bold sculptures. Almost always created from wood, the tree is combined with elements made of bronze, marble and others.
Allaf has had over 10 solo exhibitions and 60 group exhibitions across all continents except Australia. His artworks are held in private collections and museums across the world. He continues to teach Sculpture at the Adham Ismail Institute in Damascus.
TAMARA AL-SAMERRAEI (B. 1977 - )
Kuwaiti born Al-Samerraei is a trained painter who lives and works in her native Lebanon. Her art practice evolved to include illustration, photography,video, animation and installation. She enjoys mixing the conventions of each medium to create pieces that do not quiet fit the classic art categories.
Her recent works follow through the crude painterly style she exhibited at the 2017 Sharjah Biennial. Using the jungle as her main theme, Al-Samerraei created pieces that mix elements of urban living with wild nature and movement with stillness. They conjure up images you can see in a jumbled-up confusing dream in which each element is symbolic of something trapped in your subconscious .