We learn more about new Alserkal art space Grey Noise
Dubai is renowned for being a hotspot for Middle Eastern art. But while it’s common to see works from Iran, Syria and even Iraq, Pakistan is relatively uncharted territory in terms of visiting artists and exhibitions.
Until now, that is. Alserkal gallery newcomer and Pakistani-centric venue Grey Noise’s first show, ‘Truth of the Matter’, features the works of Lahore-based Pakistani artists (and married couple) Ehsan ul Haq and Iqra Hanveer, both 28; between them they list Damien Hirst, James Turrell, Gabriel Orozco and Jeff Koons as influences. Their combined installation pieces provide thought-provoking commentary on existence, truth and reality.
So why did they decide to show together? ‘We thought that our works had underlying conceptual concerns that were very similar,’ says Hanveer. ‘The show itself follows a narrative, leading the viewer through various perceptions about life, reality and truth.’ Here, the artists explain the ideas behind some of their pieces.
Skyline by Iqra Hanveer ‘This work was originally executed and conceived in Bangladesh. It’s an installation created in the middle of the lake on the outskirts of Dhaka. I placed panels of mirror almost six metres long in the middle of the lake: what you see is the reflection of the sky right above you. Most of my work has an element of nature. I wanted to place the mirrors in such a way that it appears as a two-dimensional picture existing in three dimensions. The idea was to talk about the sky and water as being one. My concerns generally are between the reality of a certain object or space, and how you perceive that reality. This project was documented throughout the day at various times. It was later displayed in the form of photographic prints, which is what you see at the gallery.’
Physical Existence of Belief by Ehsan ul Haq ‘I generally try to play with the perception of viewers, who come to the gallery with the idea that they’re going to see an artwork. Here, I’ve tried to create something that somehow looks like something from real life, from our world. I have this idea that an artwork is not from real life. It comes from another world and it has its own time. I created a concrete cube in such a way that it had to look like a concrete cube. If you look closely, there’s a hook attached to the top. The hook was placed there so you don’t mistake it for an abstract work of art. The hook gives it a feeling of movement about how it has been placed or transported, because it’s heavy. How it got here overlaps with your ideas towards a certain thing, especially your religious beliefs. In religion, you try to present an explanation through the things you experience. If you think about your own existence, you think about how you’ve come here. So I tried to replicate that idea. The block is actually hollow inside – it doesn’t weigh too much. Two or three men could move it. It’s not as heavy as it looks.’
A Piece of Land by Ehsan ul Haq ‘I was trying to play with the whole power issue, and how to gain control and acquire land. The idea was to take over something that is considered so physical and so powerful. It’s about how you can put one piece of land in one sack. It’s a very comic remark of the whole power game. The white flag is to show you’ve claimed something by putting a flag on it.’
Rooster by Ehsan ul Haq ‘It’s very difficult to explain this work. There are chicken seeds spread over the ground and the rooster is tied. He’s eating the feed and in the end he creates a circle, because that is equal to the reach of the rope of the rooster. The idea of that is very existential. You think about what your life is, what you’re doing and what happens at the end. It’s like a small world for the rooster. He’s just eating the grain, but I’m conscious of the fact that he creates his own boundary from which he cannot escape. This ironic nature of life is important for me in this work. Your capabilities define your own existence and that defines you. At the same time, the ironic nature is that you delve into something else that you think satisfies you, but it’s actually limiting you at the same time. The piece uses a real rooster. There were lots of questions regarding animal rights, but the rooster has been released now. He was only there for three days, because of course we can’t keep him for more than that. You do think about these things, but there are always limitations. He was there for three days and he was given to a friend who has a farm.’
The creation of Adam by Ehsan ul Haq ‘My concerns have always been about the capability of man, existence and religious beliefs. These three things overlap in your life, and these are the three things by which you define a human being. This piece is a very logical approach towards the whole idea of Adam’s creation: I’m sarcastically commenting on how he could have been created. This is a bulb that goes through two stools and there’s an egg at the bottom. It’s implicating a very technical process of giving birth to chicks. You’re giving the heat to the egg through a bulb, and you don’t need a hen for that. It’s a technical perspective towards the creation of human beings.’
The lowdown Exhibition: ‘Truth of the Matter’ until April 22 at Grey Noise, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1 (050 175 2080). Artists: Ehsan ul Haq, Iqra Hanveer. Price range of works: All less than Dhs18,370.