Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Hassan Sharif's art of the useless objects

Before looking at Hassan Sharif's art installations in the Venice Biennale (Italy) last year, I did not know the name of any modern artist from the Arab world. In my mind, Arabic artists were associated with things like calligraphy, flowers and geometric designs, thus I was surprised by his works. This post is about some of the art installations of Hassan Sharif at the Venice Biennale.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

Hassan Sharif

Sharif was born in UAE in 1951 and he died in 2016 at the age of 65 years.

He did his art school training in the UK in the 1980s. There, he came in contact with Tam Giles and his ideas of abstract and experimental art, which influenced him. He lived in Dubai where he helped to set up different spaces to promote and support young and upcoming artists of UAE.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

Hassan Sharif's art of assemblage

Sharif is known for taking ordinary objects of daily living and assembling them together in big heaps to create his art installations.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

His art is seen as a criticism of the prevalent shopping culture, where we need to continuously buy more things, which are then quickly discarded to contribute to the ever-increasing mountains of garbage in our cities.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

I think that his art can also be seen as a commentary on the human relationships in today's world, which follow a similar and parallel trajectory to those of the consumer products, where we look for quick emotional highs. Yet we quickly tire of them and discard them, finding it easier to hide behind our smart phones and head-phones.

Sharif's art at Venice Biennale

At the 2017 Biennale, different works of Sharif from different time periods starting from mid-1980s, were brought together to give an overview of his main artistic ideas. This exhibition was called "Supermarket" and included mixed materials such as textiles, papers, iron hardware, books and boxes.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak
Some of Sharif's installations like the one below with iron hinges and pieces of clothes, look like scraps that you may find in an old dusty store room in your house, yet they express emotions. I felt that they were a reminder to open our eyes and really look at our surroundings instead of sleep-walking through our daily lives - to see the juxtapositions of materials, shapes and colours.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

Conclusions

Today, it is not always easy to define art and to understand its boundaries. It is not about artistic skills and mastery, rather it is a way of looking at the world and rediscovering emotions and feelings. Sharif's art is such. For example, look at the assemblage of old files tied together in the image below, which can be a common sight in old Government offices. Sharif makes you look at them in a new way by appreciating their textures and forms.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

I want to conclude this post with my personal favourites among all the "assemblages" of Hassan Sharif presented at the Venice Biennale - it has a heap of steel spoons, forks and black plastic tubes. I am not sure if it was because of the bent and misshapen spoons and forks, but it was the installation which evoked the strongest feelings in me.

Art of Emirates artist Hassan Sharif at Venice Biennale - Images by Sunil Deepak

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