This isn’t the first time that softly spoken Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr has exhibited his work in Dubai. Yet having previously displayed only one or two pieces, his first solo show in the city, ‘Collision’, is an opportunity for art-goers to view his most comprehensive body of work.
‘With this exhibition I’m trying to introduce myself to people,’ he reveals. ‘I tried to make a story to explain my way of thinking. I’m leading the people, so they can see the different aspects of how I think and how I see art and how I deal with it.’
Spanning the past three years, the work incorporates video, installation and painting, and features traditional element of Egyptian culture. ‘Sometimes I search for my roots and reshow them in a more contemporary way,’ explains Nasr. ‘I wanted to upgrade them and take them from where they are.’
Transition is something the 50-year-old artist is certainly at ease with. Having in the past been invited to work on public site-specific artworks in various locations across Europe, he’s currently on residency in South Africa to create an outdoor piece for one of the country’s animal parks. ‘I believe that when art is shown in a gallery, it’s only talking to a certain level of people. When you take it outside into the public space, you’re talking to everyone. That’s how it should be, because otherwise the meaning slips away,’ says Nasr.
After spending plenty of time in South Africa for the project, it seems Nasr has also managed to find meaning in his current environment. ‘It’s amazingly beautiful here, because it’s so peaceful and I’m away from all this unrest that’s happening in the Middle East, although I’m still connected through the internet so I feel what’s going on there. It gives me a lot of ideas and I’m learning a lot. I can see now what happened here [in South Africa] – they had a big change 20 years ago, and I can see how things are going after 20 years. It tells us not to be in a rush and to wait, because things really take time.’
Though his English is unwavering, the artist says there’s only one way he feels comfortable getting his views across. ‘Art is a way of expressing myself and talking to the world, to the people. I’m not a very good writer, I’m not a very good speaker, but the language I believe I’m good at is arts.’ Here, he guides us through his own ‘language’ to explain some of his key pieces.
Exhibition: ‘Collision’ until January 10 at Lawrie Shabibi, Unit 21, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 346 9906).
Artist: Moataz Nasr.
Price: From Dhs55,100.
Elshaab ‘The people’
‘These are similar to the statues they sell to tourists in Egypt. It’s just for the memory, a souvenir. I saw what was happening to the people during the revolution, everything that happened and all the people that died. Everyone I remember from these 18 days, they ended up just being like an object. It’s a pity, actually.’
‘This started with the concept of matchsticks. They represent one person, each match. Like matchsticks, we are fragile but we hold the power of fire inside of us. When we’re together we are stronger, and we’re creating this energy and this power.’