Arnaud Rivieren in Dubai

Belgian artist's La Galerie Nationale exhibit is made from scrap metal

Dubai-based sculptor Arnaud Rivieren works solely with industrial scrap and mainly with stainless steel. Dubbed ‘a scientist of spatial subterfuge, a doctor of dynamics, [and] the crown prince of the circle’, he looks set to make waves with his second solo exhibition at La Galerie Nationale, ‘Moment of Inertia’, a series of six stainless steel beams manipulated by heat to form abstract, breathtaking sculptures.

Arnaud transforms stainless steel and heavy machinery into forms that defy their material rigidity and industrial origins. Using cast-off material sourced from Jebel Ali, his sculptures are created in a ‘moment of inertia’. He heats steel until it begins to bend rotationally under its own weight, thereby creating smooth, circular beams – without beginning or end – and free-balancing curves.

‘I have always worked with sculpture, with metallic and steel pieces. The exhibition includes five or six works, they are bigger than usual. I am moving towards a conventional beam structure that doesn’t exist on the market. I have to build the poor concept in stainless steel that I consider to be a material of all generations. I like to play with this idea of creating beams that curve into something elegant and strong. It gives a strong visual impact,’ Arnaud explains. He is so entranced by the creative possibilities of steel that he regularly searches through the scrapheaps and steelyards of the UAE for raw materials. He then painstakingly works these steel pieces – that have already served practical purposes – through a lengthy, organic transformation, giving them new life in the process and ultimately reforming them into stunning angular shapes that contort, curve, twist and revolve into sculpture.

‘I am inspired by modern artists, minimalist and abstract art. I don’t want to give too much meaning to these pieces. I started to process the steel structures when I first arrived in Dubai two years ago and I haven’t stopped since to create this concept. I am an art lover and I that’s why I started drawing. I just started making the first pieces and it went from there,’ Arnaud says.

Working as a general manager in the oil and gas industry, in which steel features heavily, Arnaud combines his day job with his artistic musings.

‘I’ve never been to art school, so for years I have just worked by myself; my practise is independent. But I appreciate other artists and maybe I follow some of their lines. I wanted to make a sculpture for myself 12 years ago and I had people helping me to weld, so I started with very simple pieces.’

Since his first solo exhibition in New York in 2008, Arnaud has shown his works at B21 Gallery in Dubai (2008), Leila Heller Gallery in New York (2009) and LKFF in Brussels (2011). In 2012, his installation ‘Paper Plane’ was presented in the heart of Brussels and at Parc Egmont as part of the ‘Art in the City’ programme at Art Brussels. His works have also been exhibited in China – in the Belgian Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010 – and he participated in the first two editions of Bastakiya Art Fair (now Sikka Art Fair).

Arnaud is said to create a quiet rapport between fluidity and formal rigour, while the works simultaneously operate on a second, spatial ‘moment of inertia’. Walking around the sculptures, viewers will see the curved steel beams align and interact. They’ll see the obscure shapes begin to create wave-like forms and ‘visual puns’ when viewed at different angles. The work is described as having ‘counter-balanced tensions’ that hold them together with a ‘fundamental contradiction between this tenuous balance and the factory or foundry atmosphere that the materials of the works emerged from, creating dynamic oppositions in the work – between manmade and primitive, momentum and inertia.’

‘They are three-dimensional structures that aren’t usually seen in Dubai,’ Arnaud says. With reference to the severed curves of French conceptual artist Bernar Venet and Italian sculptor Marino di Teana’s architectural sensibilities, each of Arnaud’s six sculptures in this work hinge on his passion for steel and his desire to transform beyond recognition the raw materials of the industry that surrounds him daily in Dubai.

The Lowdown

Exhibition: ‘Moment of Inertia’
Info: Until January 4, 2015. La Galerie Nationale, Unit 27 Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 380 4652).

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