The dictators

We look at some of the best exhibitions available in Dubai from The Third Line to B21 and in between

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Studies For A Monument

When Marwan Sahmarani exhibited at The Third Line in 2007, he brought with him a very bloody history. Depicting battles from the Middle East of the 10th to the 14th century, the show, Can You Teach Me How To Fight?, introduced the battered, distorted Bacon-esque style of this Lebanese artist.

But his current show at Boutique 1’s gallery presents an even more grotesque realisation of some of the artist’s ideas. Appropriating and then destroying images from the Middle East’s media, Sahmarani’s paintings and sculptures stretch and meld dictators, leaders and political catalysts into one devastated and stressed image. The images are fantastical, albeit on the darker side of fantasy. This dislocation from reality mirrors something of the chaos and tension that is present in the media’s relentless bombardment of word and image, which we see on rolling 24-hour news channels. It’s as if we glimpse Sahmarani’s unrealistically tall figures through a whipping haze of TV fuzz and chest-beating dramatics.

We’ve been impressed with the sort of shows that Boutique 1 is bringing to this side of town. It’s good to see that a ‘fashion concept store’ dare to show art that challenges aesthetics and verges on the hideous. Sahmarani’s final week at the gallery, recommended.

Boutique 1 Art Gallery (04 423 1999), The Walk, JBR. Until April 15

Between The Eye And The Object Falls A Shadow

Ushering in a number of new additions to B21’s roster of artists, Reza Aramesh is taking Goya into the drawing room. Contrasting scenes from 17th century Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War with that of found photojournalist images of conflicts in the Middle East, Aramesh then stages these scenes in the idyllic drama of an English stately home.

Yes, that’s quite a few bizarre turns to take, but Aramesh’s black and white stills manage to frame something of the nihilistic terror that Goya captured in his own work. Take ‘Baghdad’ (pictured). Bodies lie subtly mangled, faces are shrouded, others turn away from the lens. All have some of that same Goya-like devastated slump about them while, in the centre of the image, a figure pleads to the stars for deliverance.

It’s dramatic, no doubt about it, but then Aramesh does nothing to quell that drama, staging these among the clutter and pomp of very English ornamentation.

We got a look at some of these works at Art Dubai, and they’re good. But we’re looking forward to seeing more of these pieces together. Alone, their narrative diminishes but together they offer a flipbook of human folly – from Viet Cong executions through to blindfolded Palestinian prisoners in the Gaza strip. An atrocity exhibition of the most dramatic order.

B21 (04 340 3965). April 14-May 5

Be Lost In The Call

There’s still a few weeks left of the British artist Idris Khan’s show and, while we’ve previously focused on his layered and scanned tomes of Sufi poetry and psychoanalysis, it’s also worth heading over for his video work with Sarah Warsop. Khan asked Warsop to perform very simple movements for his camera – an arm extends, hands are brought together. Warsop performed these movements over and over again, and then Khan layered each run of footage so that the tiny, almost imperceptible inconsistencies in her movements are visible. ‘Sarah makes lists and lists of nostalgic places, something within her childhood,’ says Khan. From those lists she would then make sentences and from that she would make a code and from that code would make the rhythm in her head and keep that going to keep time as she danced.’

The results are impressive and complement the rest of the show. Check it out before it’s gone.

Elementa (04 299 0064) Dubai Airport Free Zone. Until April 25

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