99 Objects Possible to Find on a Cloud

Lebanese artist Nadim Karam on his dream-like new exhibition

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Nadim Karam’s show explores notions of a greater society – in this case, a dreamlike cloud.

Originally from Lebanon, the artist, sculptor and architect Nadim Karam’s creations have seen his metropolitan sculptures, which he calls ‘urban toys,’ displayed in cities across the world. With works in London, Tokyo and Paris, Karam’s playful creations redefine their urban surrounds.

In Dubai however, the polymath is restricted to the confines of the Ayyam Gallery in Al Quoz. His exhibition ‘99 Objects Possible to Find on a Cloud’ examines the concept of a cloud as a vehicle for exploring the potential of a utopian place – an escape from urbanisation, which is inspired by a self-awareness and an understanding of the world. The prints mix aspects of real life alongside his urban toy artworks. We discuss his philosophy behind the cloud concept and the sentiments behind his new show of prints and sculpture.

Can you elaborate on what your own utopian cloud would be like?
My utopian cloud is a dreamscape of absurdity. By associating at random a watering can with a phantom, a camel with a skateboard, a flower and an umbrella, you get three curious objects that provoke amusement and ideas that take you out of your everyday framework….and when there are 99 of them floating in space, the possibilities are endless!

Do you prefer producing work for an exhibition in a gallery or do you prefer creating art that’s displayed in public?
Spontaneously, I would say working in the city; understanding its vibes, getting under its skin, contributing to its energy and interacting with its people gets me going. But a gallery space gives you something else: a neutral canvas where you are totally free. For me, it is like a space to create a condensed brief or manifesto of concepts – an idea factory, which in itself generates new projects.

Do you think that your work has a playful and dreamlike quality?
I believe in the power and basic necessity of dreams. Because the flip side of the coin is so tough. Smoke might resemble dream clouds from a distance but its nature is profoundly different. Within the exhibition, I have created an area of works dominated by a 4m high piece called Mutual Agony, which is all about the smoke of war engulfing parts of our region.

How do you initially create the shapes for your paintings and sculptures? Do you carry a sketch book for example?
There are always shapes popping up in my head, which I sketch before they disappear on me.

Your work is reminiscent of the way people see things as a child. Do you think that adults are often conditioned to lose touch with this open-minded aspect of their personalities?
Yes, I think that the day we put away our toys in our hurry to learn the rules of the adult world, we have lost our open flexibility of spirit. I would like to rediscover the feeling that anything is possible by creating giant toys for cities.

Do different cultures react differently to your urban toy sculptures or is there a universal resonance?
I think there is a lot of universality in my ideas, but I always try to address the specific culture whenever I am creating a project. So, it’s glocal (global+local), I suppose.

Where in Dubai would you most like to create a sculpture?
I would like to create a Cloud for Dubai, somewhere near Sheikh Zayed Road. It would be a huge public platform, or park, 300m above ground level, on many slanted columns resembling rain... I think that would be an ideal spot to curate an exhibition of sculptures.

What are you planning to do next?
I am planning to create an army of cultural warriors, which I want to send out all over the world – there is lots of work to do. I have started with the first one, which is Hannibal riding on an elephant.

The Lowdown

Exhibition: ‘99 Objects Possible to Find on a Cloud’ runs until November 28 at the Ayyam Gallery in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 323 6242).
Artist: Nadim Karam
Price of works: On request

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