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Fresh Painting in Art Dubai Contemporary

CB Hoyo (Cuba, 1995) “OMG Im a trendsetter” 2023, Synthetic polymer paint water soluble oil pastels and water on raw canvas and linen. Courtesy Plan X

A young, brave generation of painters are producing works of art which demand our attention, firmly reflecting the here and now and with the capacity to transfix. At times these works can be surprising, funny or have the potential to shock. What remains consistent is a dedication to technique, a deep-rooted connection – or intentional disconnect – to art historical precedents, with a sense of improvisation and acute awareness of the impact of lived experiences.

Artists and galleries from across the Global South permeate the whole of Art Dubai, a key focus of the fair, now in its 16th year. 

Miryam Haddad, born in Damascus in 1991 and based in Paris since 2012, shows with Art: Concept. Her thickly painted work, often made up of multiple canvases joined together – are epic. Simultaneously suffocating and euphoric, Haddad’s works tackle literary classics such as Homer’s Odyssey and brim with joy and hope. Bubbling with rococo exuberance, her work contains underlying references to her diaspora experience and the necessary subversion of historical narratives. 

Piedras gallery from Buenos Aires introduces Carla Grunauer (b. 1982) whose gestural, metaphysical-inspired paintings find immensely expressive ways to blur the edges between painting and drawing, fine art and craft, the body and architecture, her ideas then echoed in sculptural form. Teresa Giarcovich (b. 1979) overlaps fabric as if it were watercolour, while Santiago Gasquet (b. 1978) produces startling installations in graphite, addressing ethics at the very root of humanity. 

Daniele Genadry (b. 1980, In Situ-Fabienne Leclerc) and Risham Syed (b. 1969, Project 88) have further expositions of their practice in Jameel Art Centre’s Artist Rooms. Genadry takes landscapes as images which have the potential to disappear and fade, giving them their own light and field of vision, and are utterly mesmerising. Syed’s Lahore Smog Series are evocative urban landscapes on aluminium that measure 5 x 7 inches, the size of a postcard.

Fatiha Zemmouri (b. 1966) at Comptoir des Mines Galerie introduces materials such as as soil, fiberglass, ceramic and charcoal to her paintings. Amanda Mushate’s (b. 1995) oil and spray paint maze-like canvases stun at First Floor Gallery from Harare.

Carrie Moyer (USA, 1969) “Night Garden”, 2022, Acrylic, glitter and graphite on canvas. Courtesy MADRAGOA

There are great artistic talents coming out of the UAE, as the scene and market here continues to evolve and mature. Take Sultan Al Remeithi (b. 1989, Aisha Alabbar Gallery) who paints vacant cafeteria vignettes – anyone who has been to Ravi’s can immediately place these– with fragility, foreboding and nostalgia. Hashel Al Lamki (Tabari Artspace) who was born in 1986 in mountainous Al Ain, creates paintings sustained by the natural landscape that inspires him. Even younger and represented by the same gallery is the emerging Ziad Al Najjar (b. 2001), who works on unstretched canvases, constructing compelling, raw paintings that reference organic matter as well as the Islamic miniatures he remembers from his childhood (both Tabari Artspace). At Hafez Gallery, Riyadh-born, Syrian artist Mohammad Zaza (b. 1987) produces large-scale neo-surrealist paintings merging the mundane and domestic with the fantastical, and nostalgia permeates Osama Esid’s new works from The American Life series.

Artists based elsewhere have also been inspired by the landscape of the UAE.  Asif Hoque, (b. 1991) and showing with Taymour Grahne Projects, uses vibrant yellows and oranges in his Sand Storm series, which encapsulates the warmth and strength of an imagined Dubai. A Bangladeshi immigrant raised between Rome and South Florida and now based in Brooklyn, Hoque is like many of his generation – experiencing living ‘between’ cultures. Kour Pour’s (b. 1987, Gallery 1957) memories of spending time in his father’s carpet shop growing up in London inspire his painterly depictions of Iranian carpets (This Rug Will Keep Us Safe and Warm), and his provocative panels take scenes from the ‘Book of Kings’ but eradicate all text and original colour. The monochrome palette laid on the surface feels very “LA”, where Pour is based. 

American painter Carrie Moyer (b.1960) has proved inspirational to a whole new generation of US painters. Her sumptuous on canvas explore the legacy of American Abstraction while paying homage to many of its seminal female figures. At Madragoa she shows two brand new paintings alongside a series of new watercolours. At October Gallery, find the vibrant, linear paintings by the North Cheyenne artist Jordan Ann Craig (b. 1992). Her paintings, prints and textile works expand the definition of Native American art.

Allison Zuckerman (b. 1990, and represented by Stems Gallery) makes fantastically devilish paintings with a dizzying number of cultural references from pop to comics, Snapchat, Botox and reality TV. This is crazed hyper consumption. In his paintings at Yusto / Giner Yann Leto (b. 1979) uses his personal collection of Google images and press clippings stored on hard drives to create different characters in his paintings, juxtaposed in nightmare scenarios. 

Alistair Canvin (b. 1987) shares his hometown of Bristol in the UK with Banksy and his intricately executed canvases  similarly have subversion at their heart. The seemingly innocent initial subject matter of toys specifically familiar to anyone growing up in the 1990s, are blown up to a mega scale, tied with barbed wire or burnt in a fire. The former advertising executive DotPigeon (b. 1987) makes cinematic scenes of utopic mansions fronted by expensive cars under blue skies are mutilated by balaclava-clad burglars and rioters. Self-taught Cuban artist CB Hoyo (b. 1995) labels himself as a dyslexic poet, comments on the impact of consumerism and social media on the human condition via bodies of work titled Crypto Fakes and ‘Corny Quotes’ (all Plan X).

Jordan Ann Craig (USA, 1992) “She Got Work Done”, 2020, Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy October Gallery

Scale is also key. In Bawwaba’s Parliament Gallery, Moroccan artist Achraf Touloub (b. 1986) portrays our age of hyperconnectivity. In his paintings human figures deflect attention – they look down as if glancing at their smartphones or have their backs to one another. Don’t miss the tiny mother-of-pearl shells by Gregory Halili (b. 1975) at Silverlens. or the extensive body of work by Maryanto (b. 1977) at Yeo Workshop that illustrates palm oil plantations in South Kalimantan. 

Whether monumental in physical size or political intent – the painters showing at Art Dubai this year offer a truly universal mix, so get stuck in.

Laura Egerton

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