Experimental artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim to represent UAE at 2022 Venice Biennale

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the UAE. (National Pavilion UAE La Biennale Di Venezia/Augustine Paredes)
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Updated 01 October 2020

Experimental artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim to represent UAE at 2022 Venice Biennale

DUBAI: Based in the seaport town of Khor Fakkan, in the exclave of the emirate of Sharjah, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim is one of the UAE’s earliest experimental artists. His handcrafted, colorful and whimsical installations and sculptural works respond to his natural surroundings, particularly to the desert and sea landscapes of his homeland.

“My connection with the natural landscapes of the UAE has inspired my work since I was a teenager,” said the artist to Arab News. “In exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, I feel I will be sharing an aspect of my home and culture with many other nations and starting a dialogue with other exhibitions presenting aspects of their own homes and cultures. For an artist, this is an exciting and creatively enriching opportunity to engage with some of the world’s most intriguing artists and concepts.”

Ibrahim was an influential member of the UAE’s avant-garde art community that formed during the early 1980s. His work has been acquired by major public and private institutions throughout the world, including the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, the Sharjah Art Foundation, Art Jameel and the Barjeel Art Foundation. His work was included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennial 2016 and most recently, at Desert X AlUla. Currently on view is Ibrahim’s solo exhibition Memory Drum, at the Lawrie Shabibi art gallery in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the UAE. (National Pavilion UAE La Biennale Di Venezia/Augustine Paredes)

Ibrahim’s work will be featured in a solo exhibition at the National Pavilion UAE for the 2022 edition of La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Maya Allison of the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.

“Mohamed’s work is singular and immediately recognizable, yet constantly developing,” said Allison to Arab News. “He draws directly on his environment and reflects the changing world around him, with a deep trust in his own particular process. Venice will mark our fifth collaboration, yet his work continues to surprise me, even as it retains a distinct visual style, demonstrating a profoundly developed artistic voice.”

The mission of the National Pavilion UAE has long been to curate and provide a platform for the untold stories of the UAE.

“With that in mind, we have made a conscious decision to move toward a more artist-led approach to exhibition development, using our global platform to highlight the UAE’s incredible community of well-established artists whose work deserves international recognition,” said Layla Binbrek, coordinating director of the National Pavilion UAE.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the UAE. (National Pavilion UAE La Biennale Di Venezia/Augustine Paredes)

“Following the success of our 2019 solo exhibition by Nujoom Alghanem, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s remarkable form-led practice and organic, handcrafted works — which are physically and conceptually deeply rooted in the unique natural landscape of his home in Khor Fakkan — made him a very fitting choice for our next pavilion,” she added.

Ibrahim’s prolific body of work captures the UAE’s multifaceted community and natural environment through an organic and endearing approach to abstraction. His figures retain an emotional and life-like sensibility that all can relate to.

“Mohamed’s practice, extending back to the 1980s, is extraordinarily rich and varied,” explained William Lawrie, co-founder of Lawrie Shabibi. “He’s one of those rare artists who creates truly automatically and from his subconscious.”

Tom Hanks talks ‘News of the World’ and the comeback of Westerns

Tom Hanks stars in ‘News of the World.’ (File/AFP)
Updated 29 November 2020

Tom Hanks talks ‘News of the World’ and the comeback of Westerns

LOS ANGELES: Depending on who you ask, Westerns are either on their way out, gone for good, or making a slow comeback in Hollywood. At one point a staple genre of the film industry, the classic Western rarely makes it onto the movie theater marquee these days. Big-budget flops such as 2013’s “The Lone Ranger” have served to usher the genre out of popularity, but critical successes such as Quinten Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful 8” and the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” are doing their part to keep Westerns from dying off completely. 

On Christmas Day, “News of the World” will be doing its part to keep the Western genre alive, and hopefully bag Universal Pictures a few Oscar nominations. Arab News heard more from the film’s star Tom Hanks.

“I love listening to a great story as much as I like telling one, and that’s why I was so excited about playing Kidd,” Hanks said, giving audiences a taste of what his performance has in store. “He is a storyteller. He is driven, emotional. He is noble. He is moved by a pursuit of the truth.”

Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former army officer who, after the death of his family, makes his living traveling around Texas reading the news to illiterate townsfolk and entertaining with true tales from across the world.

“'News of the World' takes place in the shadow of the Civil War’s end. There is defeat. There is strife and anger. Because of the war, Kidd came back to having nothing left,” he told us. “Reading the news gave him a purpose. He got up. He collected the stories. He delivered a reading and then he moved onto the next town.”

 As he continues in his travels, Kidd comes across Johanna, a young girl who had been taken from her pioneer family and raised by the Kiowa Native Americans. 

“She has no idea who her family is,” Hanks shared. “Burdened by his own decency, Kidd is going to have to return her to her family and this coming from a man who has lost any semblance of what a family is.”

The movie is adapted from the novel of the same name by author Paulette Jiles, and while it is not based on a true story, its main characters are inspired by real people. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is based on the ancestor of a friend of Jiles’ — the similarly named historical figure Captain Adolphus Caesar Kydd — who performed readings of newspapers in the 1870s. Johanna is inspired by the more well-known historical tale of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped and raised by the Comanche Native Americans.

Interestingly, there seems to be a disagreement between Jiles and film director Paul Greengrass about their goals in portraying the story of “News of the World.” In a 2016 interview with Texas Monthly, Jiles stated that she had no intention of making a commentary on contemporary politics with the original book, preferring to “move people into the world of imagination.”

Greengrass, on the other hand, told reporters at Vanity Fair that he saw the film, which features families and communities in conflict with each other, as representative of the societal divide in the modern-day US. With these opposing ideas woven into the fabric of the story, it will be interesting to see what audiences take away after watching.

It is clear what Universal is hoping to take away, and that is an Oscar. “News of the World” sees Hanks and Greengrass working together again after their previous collaboration, 2013’s “Captain Phillips.” While not an Oscar-winner, “Captain Phillips” received six nominations as well as attention at the Golden Globes and other award shows. With the film releasing at the tail end of the Oscar season, and a road-tested team of director and star, “News of the World” could be Universal’s best shot at an award for the 2020 film year.

Between award season dreams and the hopeful continuation of the Western genre, there is a lot riding on “News of the World.” At its core, however, the movie promises A-list performances and a compelling story full of action and heart.

“Kidd goes through something that saves him as much as he saves Johanna. She gave him a true purpose,” Hanks told us. “His real message is ‘when you have love in your life you will be alright.’ That’s what all great stories are. It’s just pure love for another human being.”