Established by The Abraaj Group, a leading private equity investor, to support contemporary artists of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, The Abraaj Group Art Prize invested in and has given resources to artists to develop their practice by realising a unique project. The prize reflects Abraaj’s own investment philosophy, which is to take viable businesses with great potential, and create regional and global champions.
Sharmini Periera, Curator
Installed within a darkened chamber, Woman in Black depicts the iconic image of a fictional super-heroine. The illustrations are reminiscent of Mogul miniature painting, but their form echoes traditional stained glass technique, prevalent in the Middle Ages. Stained glass originally had a clear didactic function and was used to depict narratives from the Bible to a largely illiterate populace. The interplay of light and dark serve as metaphors for good and evil and are deliberately employed by Abbas to accentuate the mysterious power of the female figure enshrined within the glass, placed in the centre of a scene of conflict, suggestive of the worldly realities of contemporary society.
Gon takes its name from the Greek and German words for unit of measurement used to calculate angles within a circle. Formed of a rhombus created by two isosceles triangles, the stainless steel sculpture recalls muqarnas, ornamentation made from small pointed niches stacked in tiers widely used in medieval architecture in north-eastern Iran and North Africa. From afar the work calls to mind Russian Constructivism through a combination of its material properties (faktura) and its spacial presence (tektonika). Up close however, the rhythmic network of the 88 heat-sealed pipes are inspired by geometric drawings of the Swiss mathmatician Jacob Steiner.
The inspirations between Dawood’s projects begins with the painter Brion Gysin’s (1916-1986) prototype Dream Machine, created in the early 60’s upon his return from Morocco. Fabricated in Fez, as an homage to Gysin, the kinetic light sculpture is designed to emit kaleidoscopic light pulses similar in effect to alpha waves produced by the brain in induce states of unconsciousness. An additional part of Dawood’s project is a concert featuring the acclaimed Bedouin: Master Musicians of Jajouka, who were the house band at Gysin’s 1001 Nights restaurant, which he opened in Tangiers in 1954 with Mohamed Hamari.
The image of the flying carpet has entered popular imagination as one of the most universally recognised symbols of the ‘orient’, additionally suggesting a boundless and unrestricted mode of travel and freedom. The practical use of carpets by hawkers who sell counterfeit goods on the streets of Venice sits in stark contrast to this freedom, as the mobility of such street sellers is greatly restricted. Of mainly African, Arab or South Asian descent, the pedlars use their carpets to bundle together goods in order to flee detection from the authorities. The artist’s installation gives this socio-political predicament expression.