With the participation of 64 artists, the “Contemplative Contrasts” exhibition launched the “Gaza Art” programmes
(Gaza- A.M. Qattan Foundation):
On Saturday, 27 July 2019, the “Gaza Art” programmes were launched with the opening of the “Contemplative Contrasts” exhibition. Curated by Dr Bahaa Abu Dayyeh, the exhibition ran until 8 August 2019 in the Exhibitions Ground in Gaza City and was attended by more than 1000 visitors.
Gaza Art concluded the “Contemporary Linkages” project, a project that has been organised by the artists’ collective Shababeek for Contemporary Art and the Visual Arts Department of the General Union of Cultural Centres in Gaza as part of the “Visual Arts: A Flourishing Field” (VAFF) project implemented by the Culture and Arts Programme (CAP) of the A.M. Qattan Foundation.
The “Contemplative Contrasts” exhibition aimed to contemplate and contrast artistic experiences in all types of creative development, between the conventional and the unconventional in the local art scene, and particularly regarding the development of artistic mediums and the renovation of concepts.
The exhibition presented works by 64 artists, 39 of whom had participated in the various opportunities enacted with the “Contemporary Linkages” project through production grants and artists’ residencies, as well as workshops on contemporary art. The exhibition also presented works by 8 prominent artists and founders of the art movement in Gaza, as well as new works by 11 artists who had responded to the open call with original proposals for projects for the exhibition. The curator also selected 6 other artists to participate.
Dr Bahaa Abu Dayyeh, curator at the Fire Station artists-in-residence project in Doha, noted that “this exhibition demonstrates the overall contemporary art experience in the Gaza Strip, whether inspired by different classical arts and forms of traditional expression, or works that employ new mixed media and which venture into new worlds of experimentation”.
The exhibition is divided into 3 sections: the first, entitled “Within the Boundaries of the Conventional”, featured artworks by 26 artists that represented various art practices. The works are based on direct reporting of experienced events and are influenced by conventional visual expressions and make use of traditional techniques such as drawing, sculpture and painting on canvas. The artists featured in this section investigate in their work issues inspired by the political and social realities in Gaza and adopt the symbolism of the struggle and direct expression of the catastrophe and tragedy of their homeland, portraying subjects such as the land, the refugee camp, women, the siege, etc.
Maysara Baroud, one of the participating artists in this section said: “Taking part in this exhibition has been the most mature experience in terms of exhibition production as it aspired to the level of international exhibitions. It has been an opportunity to share my work and my experience in drawing that addresses some of the political issues we are experiencing, such as the Judaisation of Jerusalem and the relentless shrinking of spaces under siege and occupation.”
The second section, entitled “Within the Boundaries of the Unconventional”, presented works by 30 artists. These works are characterised by experimentation and innovation while remaining faithful to the concept, even if it comes at the expense of the tools the artists make use of. The works draw inspiration from lived reality but pose ideas and deal with concepts through an indicative and non-direct style. The artistic experiences presented in this section featured experimentation and the utilisation of different media, from video work to installation and photography. The artists who participated in this section of the exhibition represent various age groups but are united by a common desire to experiment with and try out new expressive mediums.
Reflecting on her experience, artist Rafida Suhwail said: “This exhibition was an important event because it brought together different types of visual arts and media. It created a visual and cultural memory for the spectator, which is unusual in Gaza. Our community craves opportunities and exhibitions such as this. I exhibited video work entitled “Confrontation” that I produced with the help of a production grant through the “Contemporary Linkages” project. My work presents the daily life of the residents of Gaza. I chose video as a medium because it allows me to delve deeper into the topics that I address.”
The third section, entitled “Within the Boundaries of Pioneerism”, highlighted the leading artistic experiences in Gaza by exhibiting works by some of Gaza’s most prominent artists – artists who have contributed to the emergence of the visual arts movement in Gaza since the early 1970s and who have participated in teaching and training contemporary artists, both through academic education and through workshops. Most of the works in this section featured drawing as a medium, with works by Dr Shafiq Radwan, Fayez Hasni, Fayez Sarsawi, Dr Ahmad Abulkass, Fathi Ghaban and Tahani Skeik, in addition to some works by the late artists Kamel Mughni and Bashir Sinwar.
A panel discussion on Palestinian art was also held on Monday, 29 July 2019, with artists Majdal Nateel, Fayez al-Sarsawi, Ahmad al-Haj and Mahmoud Abu Hashhash, the Director of the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Culture and Arts Programme. On the last day of “Gaza Art”, the exhibition curator presented a lecture on Arab Art and led some curator’s tours for different groups of the audience.
“Gaza Art” ran for the first time in Gaza for 13 days. It is expected that this will be the launch of an annual visual art event in Gaza and that it will be an important opportunity for attracting international artists to also participate, despite the harsh siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for some years now.
This event was the result of the “Contemporary Linkages” Project, which attempts to respond to the needs of Gazan artists through a implementing a series of technical and theoretical/conceptual art training programmes, with the participation of local, Arab and international expertise. For the first time in Gaza the project offered opportunities for artists’ residencies, as well as production grants. The project also contibuted towards enhancing the sustainability of Gaza’s General Union of Cultural Centres and the artists’ collective Shababeek.
Shareef Sarhan, Artistic Director of the “Contemporary Linkages” project, commented: “Our experience in this project is the first of its kind in Gaza, and perhaps in Palestine, because the interventions are new and different from their precursors in terms of the accumulation of knowledge, the engagement with contemporary media and in rethinking artworks and using new tools. The project has created a space that contributes to finding new directions in the art field that are different from previous years.”
Commenting on the “Gaza Art” programme and the exhibition, Mahmoud Abu Hashash said: “This programme will be a turning point in the art scene in the Gaza Strip, especially with how the “Contemplative Contrasts” exhibition was developed by the curator. The exhibition brought different participating artworks into a state of dialogue and contrast, creating an opportunity for generating important new knowledge both for professionals in
Photo Captured By: Eyad Jadallah.