Monir Farmanfarmaian continues to dazzle as she explores kinetic art

The art has been shown in various city over the world. (Image supplied)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Monir Farmanfarmaian continues to dazzle as she explores kinetic art

  • Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian is 94 and has displayed her art all over the world
  • Farmanfarmaian’s latest exhibition features mixed-media installations

DUBAI: At 94 years old, Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian would surely be forgiven for resting on her considerable laurels. Her work, after all, is featured in several of the world’s leading museums, including Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Guggenheim in New York, and London’s Tate Modern. She even has a museum all of her own in Tehran.
As her latest solo exhibition proves, however, Farmanfarmaian isn’t even close to slowing down yet. “The Breeze at Dawn Has Secrets to Tell You,” which opened at Dubai’s Third Line Gallery late September and runs until November 3, features mixed-media installations created by the artist this year (including new iterations of her famed Mirror Ball works from the Seventies, originally inspired, apparently, by children playing football in the streets.

The exhibition continues Farmanfarmaian’s exploration of math, Islamic cosmology, and Sufi mysticism (the title comes from a Rumi poem) but also introduces an entirely new practice for the artist, as she experiments with kinetic art for the first time. Her familiar geometric mirror mosaics are, the gallery explains in a statement, “framed by curtains of reverse-painted plexiglass strands that one imagines could oscillate in the wind.” Several of those works also feature suspended pendants, further mirroring the shapes from which they hang.

“Each of the shapes possesses mathematical attributes and, consequently, its own meaning. Thus, the triangle becomes a symbol of harmony representing the sould and the three forms of action: mental, physical and verbal, while the square is synonymous with stability, the four cardinal points, and the four seasons,” the statement says.
Back in the 1950s, Farmanfarmaian worked alongside some of modern art’s most-famous names, including Andy Warhol, Frank Stella and Jackson Pollock. “The Breeze at Dawn Has Secrets to Tell You” shows that —  over half a century later — Farmanfarmaian still, remarkably, retains the kind of energy and playfulness that helped drive her then-contemporaries, while her mastery of technique has continued to flourish.

 


Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

Jana Ghalayini’s work at Art Dubai invited visitors to draw on their responses.
Updated 25 May 2019
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Creative group in the UAE gives female artists a chance to tell their story

  • Female-led art collective wants society to rethink the way women of color are perceived
  • Banat Collective publishes artworks in print and online and hosts events to encourage debate

DUBAI: Sara bin Safwan founded the Banat Collective in 2016 to connect with other like-minded people, championing
their art through the group’s website, banatcollective.com.
The group aims to help society to rethink the way women of color are perceived by showcasing contemporary art, poetry and other writings. The collective publishes artistic works in print and online and hosts events aimed at spreading awareness and encouraging debate.
“A lot of the artists are young and emerging and never had the chance to be either exhibited or publicized, so we interview them to offer a critical, insightful look at their work,” said Safwan, 25.


Now an assistant curator at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Safwan graduated from London’s world-famous Central Saint Martins college in 2015 with a degree in culture, criticism and curation.
It was while studying in Britain that she developed a keen interest in post-colonial theory; the Banat Collective focuses on themes relating to both womanhood and intersectionality, which is an analytic framework to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those most marginalized in society.
“The mission is not only to connect artists but open up discussions about Arab womanhood in the region, because there’s not necessarily any other place to do so. We do that through art, poetry and other writings,” Safwan said.
“I use the word ‘womanhood’ to make it a more accessible term because if I use ‘feminism,’ it’s a very politically charged word that has almost been tainted by Western ideologies. And those Western ideologies don’t necessarily fit within our context as Middle Easterners.”
“In the Middle of it All” is the collective’s debut publication. Released in 2018, the book is a 31-artist collaboration of visual art, writing and poetry. Our book is a means to help us stand out — it’s thoughtfully curated and tackles a specific issue, which is ‘coming of age’,” she says.
“It’s a notion that’s taboo in the Arab world and either unheard of or misunderstood. It was a chance for female artists to tell their own story.
“Throughout the book, we go through many topics such as puberty, identity, sexual harassment and abuse, sisterhood, motherhood, beauty standards and all these other societal expectations.”
The collective held its first exhibition as part of March’s Art Dubai fair, showcasing a short film, “Ivory Stitches & Saviors” by member Sarah Alagroobi, which she describes as an “unflinching glimpse into identity, colonialism and whitewashing.”
Says Safwan: “It’s a tribute to all women of color who have been marginalized and, all too often, erased.”
Another work by Palestinian-Canadian artist Jana Ghalayini is comprised of a 26-meter-long piece of chiffon on which visitors can draw with chalk pastels in response to questions posed by the artist including “How does your environment affect your identity?”
Safwan adds: “The themes we explored were vulnerability and community — it was a way to introduce ourselves in person because previously we only had an online presence.”
Born and raised in the UAE to Honduran and Emirati parents, Safwan is now working with Alagroobi and Ghalayini to brainstorm ideas for future projects that include a podcast series on the notion of shame. The collective is self-funded and run by volunteers.
“I hope there will be more opportunities to showcase our work and collaborate with others. This year, we will be publishing more content,” Safwan said.