Beyond: Emerging Artists, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath

Artists: Maitha Abdalla (Tabari Art Space) | Hashel Al Lamki (Leila Heller Gallery) | Christopher Benton

Dates: 17 November 2021 – 22 January 2022

Times: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Location: Gallery M, Manarat Al Saadiyat

Beyond: Emerging Artists is an annual initiative at Abu Dhabi Art that launched in 2017. The program provides three emerging artists in the UAE with a platform from which to develop their practice and realize ambitious art projects. The selected artists are chosen by a guest curator each year. They undertake a year-long program of workshops and studio visits initiated by the guest curator which leads toward the realization of a project for the Abu Dhabi Art fair in November. The works remain on exhibition to the public for several months beyond the fair dates.

The Beyond: Emerging Artists 2021 program is guest curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, co-founders of multidisciplinary curatorial platform Art Reoriented. The curators have chosen three UAE-based emerging artists – Hashel Al Lamki, Maitha Abdalla and Christopher Benton to create new commissions for the 13th Edition of the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. 

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath have strong critical insights into Modern and Contemporary art from the region, and bring a deeply informed art-historical context and perspective to bear on what can be viewed as a new moment for the contemporary Emirati art scene.

The commissioned artists Hashel Al Lamki, Maitha Abdalla, and Christopher Benton are all key voices from within the community and have unique perspectives. 

Hashel Al Lamki was born in the UAE and his practise focuses on social innovation, sustainability, environmental and philanthropic practices. 

Al Lamki is inspired by the evolution of the UAE’s cultural dynamic since the early 2000s, and this project for the program, titled Dice, highlights the patterns of the world, showing that everything has a rise and fall, and is meant to repeatedly experience a sense of tension and release.

Al Lamki said, “I am super excited and thankful to be selected for the Beyond: Emerging Artists programme this year, to be among other great artists that I consider friends and family, and work with star curators Sam and Till.” He added, “I have known Maitha and Christopher for a long time, we have a close connection, we discuss our projects and help each other out.” 

Mixed media artist Maitha Abdallah oscillates between the diaphanous, vibrant and surreal; her art is always marked by an atmosphere of reminiscence and nostalgia. Her paintings and mixed-media work often evolve into series and articulate strong cultural narratives; they are assemblages of memory, travel and human interaction. 

Speaking about her project she said, “My work often revolves around local stories, folktales and mythology and explores the boundaries of these stories through performance. I plan on exploring one of these folktales in particular this year, a folkloric female character who pushes boundaries and is feared by the community. Working with Sam and Till will be fantastic, they are curators that I have been following and admiring.” 

Christopher Joshua Benton is a UAE-based American artist working across sculpture, photography, and film. He works closely with communities and neighborhoods to instigate collaboration and share stories of power, labor, and hope. His practice explores how the working-class uses culture and innovation to stage resistance to post-colonial and neo-liberal forces. 

Benton said, “The curators Till and Sam have already been incredible mentors and friends, working with me to challenge and develop my ideas for this commission. It has been a really fun process. I am presenting a project that is looking at the date palm tree as a symbol for the movement of people, ideas, and products across the world, and across decades. I am envisioning my project as a large- scale installation, video, and sculpture, and I can’t wait to share what I have been working on.” 

Beyond: Emerging Artists 2021 is on show at Manarat Al Saadiyat from 17 November 2021 until 22 January 2022. 

For more information on Abu Dhabi Art 2021 and its year-round programs, visit abudhabiart.ae

Words: Saira Malik

Images: Abu Dhabi Art

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