Artwork deep dive: Helen Khal 'At the still point of the turning world'
This untitled work painted by Helen Khal (1923-2009) in 1969, features vast layered, faintly textured blocks of green. Details of this moderately sized canvas reveal steady, measured brushstrokes, built up to create hazy fields of colour. Dark green forms the breadth of this composition, fading into a rounded rectangle below, in a lighter, brighter green, glowing like painterly facets of an emerald.
Baya As I Knew Her
As a proud Algerian and someone with a lifelong passion for the arts passed down to me by my father, it seems a right of passage to know and love the work of Baya. Her work, a natural phenomenon, decorated the walls of many bourgeois Algerian families whose houses I frequented growing up, adding vivacity to otherwise bare walls. During my youthful years, Algiers was a very bourgeois and conservative city which is why I was fascinated by the warm and colourful works of this new female artist Baya who painted and drew exactly like a child.
The Khair Collection
The behaviour of collectors varies from searching for works within one genre or medium to identifying pieces that fit into broader categories. The growth of an art collection is an organic process, it grows innocently from one sketch, a few watercolours, an interesting drawing, and then on, to another more serious composition. No one can know exactly when the fever strikes. No one can measure exactly when the casual hobby of buying art shifted into a serious pattern of collecting for Mr. Munzer Khair, but once his addiction hit, it didn’t stop. To him, the acquisition of every new artwork became a crucial step to heightening the integrity of his collection.
An Evolution of Style: Dia al-Azzawi works in the Dubai Collection
The works by Dia al-Azzawi in the Dubai Collection provide a compelling overview of key developments and moments in Azzawi’s career since the mid-1960s. Born in Baghdad in 1939, Azzawi’s ongoing, limitless exploration of art includes painting, sculpting, printmaking, graphic design, digital art and more. His influences—ancient, medieval and modern, investigate the aesthetic, cultural and philosophical histories of pre-Islamic civilisations, the evolution of manuscript traditions, the legacies of heroes and martyrs, the impact of both ancient and modern Arabic poetry and the natural world. Perhaps inevitably, these influences also include Azzawi’s personal experiences and reflections on war, memory and injustice, especially as an artist in exile from his homeland, Iraq.
When Images Speak, What do they Say?
“What do pictures want?,” is a question on which W.J.T. Mitchell reflected in his 2005 book of the same title. Fundamentally, the question asserts the notion that pictures have agencies that extend beyond their makers’ and receivers’ intentions. Mitchell states that, “The question to ask of pictures from the standpoint of a poetics is not just what they mean or do but what they want – what claim they make upon us, and how we are to respond. Obviously, this question also requires us to ask what it is that we want from pictures.” The claim thus is for a mutual relationship between pictures and people, both with their agencies and desires. In many ways, images tell us about the world we inhabit.
The Depth of the Surface: Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World
We enter the composition by boat, on a calm, flowing river that meanders diagonally off into the left-hand corner of the canvas. On either side of the river, tall trees — their historical presence suggested by the wide girth of their trunks — hug the waterway; their delicate dance with the sunlight bathing the river in vibrant patches of green, blue, orange, and reds. Nestled behind the trees, a row of brownish buildings with dark cavernous windows guides the viewer’s eye along the river and into the vanishing point in the distance. Together, these elements — the winding waterway, trees that stretch up to meet the frame of the canvas, and architectural structures weathered by time — create a composition of immense depth that moves the viewer’s eye through the canvas: a visual journey that mirrors the suggested physical water journey that is the subject of this landscape.
Collecting In Dubai: The Last Two Decades
The rise of Dubai as a contemporary art capital took place first and foremost through the establishment of for-profit ventures in the city over the last two decades, as part of an increasingly globalised commercial art sector. International auction houses and art organisations, with Christies a pioneer amongst them together with the Art Dubai fair, played a crucial role in this process. Whilst expanding existing operations or ‘exporting’ commercial models already developed in Western cultural capitals, these organisations found in Dubai fertile ground to challenge established frameworks for presenting non-Western art, which ultimately changed the very notion of what it means for art to be ‘global’.