Art Dubai Portraits is a film series that provides a short perspective into the lives and workspaces of artists that are connected to the fair through its programming or participating galleries. The series is produced in collaboration with Forward James Filmmakers. Follow the links below to watch the films:
Represented by Green Art Gallery in Dubai, Chaouki Choukini is a Lebanese-born, Paris-based artist, who is known for his bold yet poetic wooden sculptures. It was Choukini’s early experiences of observing landscapes in his native South Lebanon that initially inspired him to pursue a decades-long career in sculpture. Aside from showing his works in the UAE, the award-winning Choukini has been widely exhibited in France. In addition, his sculptures have been acquired by Amman’s National Gallery of Fine Arts, Sharjah’s Barjeel Art Foundation, and Paris’ Centre National des Arts Plastiques, among others.
Based in Berlin, the Tehran-born, Gypsum Gallery digital artist Setareh Shahbazi draws inspiration from visual objects that surround her, from old family photographs to newspaper clippings, feeding into her conceptual installations, multi-coloured prints, and digitally manipulated photomontages. Through her artistic practice, Shahbazi offers reconstructed narratives simultaneously provided by her personal stories and the forgotten items that she comes across. Educated in scenography in Germany, Shahbazi’s works have been displayed in exhibitions in Iran, Lebanon, Germany, Italy, and France.
Based between Beirut and Paris, Ali Cherri is a video and installation artist, who focuses on recording and displaying multilayered narratives that revolve around delicate matters of heritage, archaeology, and conservation. Cherri’s projects prove diverse and equally fascinating, leading him to discover a 5000-year-old necropolis in Sharjah’s desert and reconstructing a Syrian astronaut’s historic journey to space in 1987. Represented by Galerie Imane Farès in Paris, Cherri’s works have been exhibited worldwide in prominent galleries, museums and film festivals across Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Far East.
Represented by The Third Line in Dubai, Sherin Guirguis is an Egyptian-born, California-based visual artist. Her artistic practice predominantly explores the multifaceted links between ornamentation, social and historical issues, particularly feminism. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Guirguis furthered her education in painting and sculpting in Santa Barbara and Nevada. Over the past 16 years, she has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. In addition, Guirguis’ works have been acquired by notable institutions in the United States, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Orange County Museum of Art, and the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
Ayyam Gallery artist Farzad Kohan is a Tehran-born, Los Angeles-based painter and sculptor, whose text-infused, mixed media works explore the themes of identity, migration, and human emotion. Participating in several solo and group exhibitions since 2001, Kohan has showcased his art in Dubai, Beirut, and Los Angeles. In recent years, Kohan’s works have been acquired by museum and private collections in the United States, most notably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Born in 1993, Athr Gallery artist Basmah Felemban is a Saudi graphic designer, whose intricate artworks – from works on paper to installations – focus on Islamic art and calligraphy. In 2013, she earned her Master’s degree in Traditional and Islamic Art from London’s Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Since 2011, Felemban has exhibited her research-driven works in notable group exhibitions in Dubai, Sharjah, Jeddah, Venice, and London.
Ania Soliman is an interdisciplinary artist, based in Paris and New York. Born in Warsaw in 1970 to a Polish mother and an Egyptian father, she lived in Cairo and Baghdad before leaving for the USA, where she studied at Harvard (BA 1989-1992) and Columbia (MA 1993-1996) University. Soliman has a research-based practice and works across a wide range of media such as drawing, video, text, installation and performance.
Recognized as one of the pioneers of modern Arab art, the London-based, Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi’s body of work spans over forty years. Born in 1939, in Baghdad, Iraq, Azzawi’s art draws inspiration from his homeland, and covers a range of subjects executed in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and book art.
Azzawi started his artistic career in 1964, after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and completing a degree in archaeology from Baghdad University in 1962; his studies of ancient civilizations and Iraqi heritage have had a profound impact and continued impact on his art.
Amir H. Fallah
In his work, The Third Line artist Amir H Fallah explores the idea of creating someone’s portrait without showing their physical likeness. Fallah, who began his artistic practice at the age of 12, has a sheer unquenchable thirst for work. He is interested in opposites as a way to create tension, which is, amongst others, a result from his two-fold artistic background of having had a very formal academic training on the one hand and worked on graffiti on the other.
Fallah was born in Tehran in 1979. He received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA from UCLA in 2005, and has exhibited widely in solo shows across the United States and in the Middle East.
Shezad Dawood is a London-based multi-media artist of Pakistani and Indian descent and winner of the 2011 edition of the Abraaj Group Art Prize.
He works across film, painting and sculpture, and his practice often involves collaboration with different groups and individuals. His latest major body of work is his ten-part film cycle Leviathan, in which he explores notions of marine welfare, migration, mental health and their possible interconnections. The film was conceived in dialogue with a wide range of marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists and trauma specialists.
Aya Haidar’s Lebanese roots as well as the history of the Middle East inform much of her multimedia practice. Based in London where she grew up, Haidar poses questions focused on memory, loss and migration. In relooking at existing objects and offering them alternative readings, she attempts to propose new narratives that aim to contribute to wider dialogues on remembrance, shared stories and identity. With degrees from the Slade School of Fine Art and the London School of Economics, Haidar has exhibited around the world and is represented by Athr in Jeddah. She also works independently on curatorial and educational projects, most recently, ‘Do It’ with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hoor Al Qasimi.
Born in 1988, Brooklyn-based artist Meriem Bennani spent her childhood between Rabat and Paris, earning an MFA from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and a BFA from The Cooper Union in New York. Drawing inspiration from her native Morocco, the radically different cultures of Morocco and New York City are combined with Bennani’s invented cast of animated digital characters, immersing the viewer in an environment of brightly colored, geometric forms and surfaces. When she is not online, she doubles as a designer for JNOUN, a creative studio she founded with her sister, Zahra Bennani. Commissioned by Art Dubai projects, Bennani produced Ghariba/Stranger, the 2017 Art Dubai Bar – an interactive installation featuring playful video portraits of Moroccan women in a series of viewing stations, sending visitors on a game-like journey through the installation to uncover a larger narrative.
Khalil Rabah’s work is laced with humour and wit as the Ramallah-based artist continues to offer his version of an alternative history through the invention of the fictional Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind at the Sharjah Biennal. Galleries that form this imagined institution have been exhibited around the world, in the biennials of Venice, Sharjah, Marrakech and Istanbul as well as in venues in Beirut, New York and London, among others. Fiction aside, Rabah, who was born in Jerusalem in 1961, employs a sense of forward thinking to his work that is rooted in issues of identity, displacement and politics – one such example is his launch of the Riwaq Biennale, an institution founded to safeguard and promote Palestine’s cultural heritage across various cities and towns and for the duration of a year. Rabah is represented by Sfeir Semler Gallery in Beirut/Hamburg and has held solo exhibitions at e-Flux, New York (2013), Beirut Art Center (2012), Kunsthaus Hamburg (2015) and Casa Arabe in Madrid (2016), among others.
Ramin & Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian
Dubai-based Iranian artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian are constantly redefining the limits of their practice as individual artists and as a collaborative, fervently developing their work to tackle issues that constitute nowadays reality. Permanently researching, reflecting, experimenting and creating, the trio’s first collective exhibition, I Put It There, You Name It, took pace in 2012 at their Dubai gallery, Isabelle van den Eynde, and they have since gone on to stage shows around the world. Most recently, they touched upon subjects of displacement at the recent Speak, Lokal exhibition at the Zurich Kunsthalle, the constraints inherent to the logistics required by the art system in the 9th Liverpool Biennale, the fluxus strategies in their immersive multi-room and multi-disciplinary installation at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s The Creative Act. In all subjects, they seek to embrace the positive while they also explore alienation, disorientation and loss of meaning.
Abdul Rahman Katanani
Born in 1983 in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, Abdul Rahman Katanani spent his childhood painting, using the realities of the Palestinian refugees’ everyday life in the camp as his subject matter. Over the years, Palestine became a metaphor for themes of hope, homeland, resilience and displacement – issues that are currently globally pertinent. In his work, and following a post graduate degree from the Lebanese University, Katanani has come to incorporate found objects from the camp such as bottle caps, rags and utensils, with corrugated iron and barbed wire – materials indigenous to the camp’s structure. Some of his more recent work include olive trees that are native to Palestine, rendered in barbed wire; as well as children made from corrugated iron flying kites formed from tin cans. Among his monumental pieces is a 200-kilogram tornado made from barbed wire and another of a gigantic wave, both of which serve as allegories for a void, political unrest and change. Katanani has completed residencies in France and has held solo and group shows in Beirut, Doha, Munich and Paris, among other cities. He is represented by Beirut’s Agial Art Gallery.