Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Generation Kill

Abdulnasser Gharem’s  Solo Show, The Awakening

It was a cool spring evening in Dubai and the opening reception of Abdulnasser Gharem at Ayyam Gallery was but a few minutes away.

I learned from the news that Ayyam Gallery is owned by a Syrian who fled the civil war in Syria and moved his Gallery from Damascus to Dubai and is doing well.

The owner (Samawe?) has been paying the plane tickets for the Syrian artists who wanted to resume their art work in Dubai.

 posted this April 6, 2014

Ascending the escalator leading up to DIFC, I braced myself for a special experience.

Abdulnasser Gharem’s Solo Show, The Awakening

Certainly I will be stirred in the same way I did the first time I saw Abdulnasser’s work at XVA Gallery 4 years earlier and every time thereafter.

corinnemartin_abdulnassercover 1

This would be a particularly significant step for Abdulnasser as his first solo show following the historical sale of Message/Messenger at Chrsitie’s Dubai, which earned $842,500, the largest sum ever paid for a work by a living Arab artist.

For the people following Abdulnasser’s path and the events which lead to this point, it is impossible to separate the man from the work.

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Gharem is tall and broad shouldered. His bright amber-colored eyes exude wisdom and kindness, and his confidence is an art in itself.

During our conversation he shared the story of his artistic life.

Growing up, his early landscape and portrait techniques were self taught. When in the late 1990s Saudi towns and cities got their first internet, it gave him a way to engage with the world outside.

Gharem’s understanding of the world was transformed and he began reading every book he could possibly get his hands on.

“My art only began when I understood that there are many voices. I think you can also say that my education started when I left school.”

He perfected the ability to condense ideas of great complexity into forms of pure simplicity. This was a key element in getting his work authorized.

In 2009 when he created concrete barriers in response to the wave of terrorist attacks in Saudi, he put it very simply,

“I’m not against anyone. I’m with the subject. What interests me here are concrete walls, what they keep out. In Berlin, yes. In Baghdad, yes. In Israel and Palestine, sure (why?). But most of the all it’s the concrete barriers in my town and in my country that I’m interested in… These walls are temporary… We should see beyond them.”

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Much of his work has roots that appeared out of personal experiences dating back to his childhood.

“Rich people in Saudi keep horses, everyone else catches pigeons or doves and keeps them instead,” he explained about Message/Messenger. “It’s easy you set a trap using a basket or any kind of dome, and you leave out some water and sugar. Soon you have a bird. Keep the bird in that trap for twenty days and it knows that this is its home. It will not leave you.”

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Like much of his previous work, Abdulnasser continues addressing difficult issues in his latest solo exhibition, Al Sahwa (The Awakening). The title of the exhibition is a reference to the “Al Sahwa” movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s that gained force in public and university life both in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East.

In this exhibition, Abdulnasser examines a new kind of Awakening, based on creativity, dialogue, exchange of knowledge, discourse on art and education and an attitude of tolerance.

I am “hoping to launch a request for the restoration of the real Islam, which believes in pluralism and diversity, and together is committed against extremism.”

Walking up to the gallery, the first thing I noticed was the concrete block placed at the very front of the entrance, as they are always in his shows and galleries.

There is the initial observation of the art from afar, then there is the intimate interaction with the pieces, where he allows for discovery and a slow reveal of messages hidden in the work.

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Hemisphere and Camouflage are two of the largest stamp paintings Abdulnasser has made so far.

In Hemisphere an ancient warrior’s helmet is paired with a green dome of a mosque. The green on the dome represents the grandeur of the Muslim world and the faith that stands for peace. The dome and crescent in the work reference his previous installation, Message/Messenger.


Hemisphere, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

240 x 360 cm


Generation Kill2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

160 x 200 cm


Generation Kill, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

160 x 200 cm


Camouflage, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

240 x 480 cm


Pause, 2014

160 x 400 cm (Diptych)

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint


Concrete, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

120 x 240 cm




March 2023

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