For the first time in Dubai, eastern Europe’s top emerging artists are on display in Alserkal Avenue. The multimedia exhibition, running at Green Art Gallery until Friday July 15, features paintings, installations and works on charcoal from artists based in Prague, Serbia, Romania, Budapest, Turkey and more.
Eastern European art expert Jane Neal was approached by the gallery to curate the show, and was tasked with bringing together artists who explored themes of history in their works. From there the concept expanded even further. ‘Last year, when I started talking to the gallery, comparisons had already started to be drawn between what happened in 1989 in Romania with the revolution, and the events surrounding the Arab Spring,’ says Neal. ‘We didn’t want to focus exclusively on this development, but we still felt this issue was pertinent and timely to raise.’ We asked Neal what else we can expect from the exhibition.
How did you become involved in art from eastern Europe?
I’ve been working with artists from eastern Europe since 2005. I studied medieval history and had a tutor who specialised in eastern European history in the early ’90s. He gave me a love and an understanding for the region. It was a very tumultuous time in the early ’90s with the post-war and revolution, so I became really interested.
Why did you decide to focus on it?
It wasn’t so much of a decision. Spending some time in Prague as a student led me to become more interested in the artistic premises of the region. It wasn’t a conscious decision – I became involved with a number of really strong and interesting artists and wanted to work with them several times.
What characteristics are you seeing at the moment in art from eastern Europe?
There are certain things you could argue: the conceptions are strong and the painters among them are technically very proficient. Ironically, the western atelier tradition was preserved under communism in
a way that it wasn’t in America and Europe. It was abandoned by the west at that time, and ‘technique’ was considered a dirty word for a long time.
Can you explain the concept behind this exhibition?
As the title suggests, all the artists in the show, personally and collectively, reference history in their work. Green Art Gallery asked me to bring these artists from eastern Europe into the Dubai context. We decided it would be really interesting to do an exhibition that not only profiled these artists from eastern Europe, but brought them together with artists that Yasmin [the gallery owner] is working with.
How did you choose the artists or works for this exhibition?
It was a collaborative effort. I chose artists that I felt were very strong and that would fit with Yasmin’s programme, and both of us agreed that there had to be passion and artists that we felt very strongly about. There is a flexible, overarching idea that can bring different elements together and, in a way, let the work breathe.
Where are most of the artists from?
You’ve got Daniel Pitin from Prague, who’s probably the most well-known of the Czech painters; Ivan Grubanov from Serbia; Zsolt Bodoni, who is living and working in Budapest; and Alexander Tinei, who is originally from Moldova and now living in Budapest. There are also four artists from Romania.
What interesting themes can we see in the pieces?
It’s difficult to put in a nutshell. To a certain degree, an interest in history and power is one. Then also you have a sense of the common man and how history really affects everyday life. Then there’s much more abstract work, such as the pieces from Ivan Grubanov.
What mediums are explored in the show?
There’s charcoal, which Mircea Suciu uses – he takes his lead from Francois Goya when he says, ‘Give me a charcoal and I’ll show you a painting.’ Although it’s a drawing, I think of it much more as a painting. We have a beautiful sculpture by Hale Tenger of a crystal Cinderella slipper on a cushion, covered in a cast. It’s a beautiful piece. We also have videos.
Why would you encourage people to see this exhibition?
It’s something that people may not have seen before, and it’s great for local artists and the public to see something new, exciting and fresh. And the artists are strong: we have some of the most internationally recognised artists of the eastern European younger generation emerging now and it’s an opportunity to see their work in the flesh. I’d say come and see it, be curious and enjoy it. It’s a real feast for the eye.
Which artist should we watch out for in future?
They’re all incredibly strong. Each of the works has its owns voice. I hope it provokes a curiosity and a sense of intrigue and wanting to know more. The artists are really excited to take part in this exhibition.
Exhibition: ‘Referencing History’ until July 15 at Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1 (04 346 9305).
Artists include: Kamrooz Aram, Hale Tenger, Ali Banisadr, Alexander Tinei, Daniel Pitin and Gabriela Vanga.
Price range of works: Dhs6,000 to Dhs125,000.