This week, the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) unveiled its exhibition at the Biennale Arte 2022 in Venice, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset.
Curated by The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery’s Executive Director, Maya Allison, the exhibition, on view until November 27 at the Pavilion’s permanent space at the Arsenale – Sale d’Armi in Venice, presents a major new work by Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim - a room-filling sculptural form made up of 128 abstract and organic elements.
The opening ceremony was inaugurated by UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi. It also welcomed President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation Her Highness Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi; UAE Ambassador to Italy His Excellency Omar Obaid Al Shamsi; Chairman of UAE Unlimited and Patron of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and of the British Museum in London His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan; Chief Executive Officer of Arts & Literature Sector at Dubai Culture Authority His Excellency Saeed Kherbash; and NYUAD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann.
The new work resonates with La Biennale’s theme The Milk of Dreams, which focuses on the connection between bodies, the earth, and metamorphosis. Ibrahim’s sculpture clusters human-sized, tree-like forms to fill the exhibit space. The commissioned artwork is derived from the artist’s deep connection to the physical environment of his hometown of Khor Fakkan – a city at the edge of the rocky Al Hajar mountains where they meet the waters on the east coast of the Emirate of Sharjah in the UAE.
The title, Between Sunrise and Sunset, refers to his experience of the light there, where the mountains cast the town in afternoon shadow, obscuring the sunset on the west coast of the UAE. The color of the sculpture shifts from bright playful colors and forms to subdued black and white elements, and suggests undulating movement of bodies, mutation, and metamorphosis. The artist created the work from raw papier-mâché and natural materials including dirt, leaves, tea, coffee, and tobacco.
“I have always felt that Khor Fakkan, its mountains, the urban and rural environment, have a soul. I feel that my soul is attached to this unique city, and it inspires me to translate my immediate surroundings into art. When I go out into nature, the way I see things changes me and I need to express that somewhere. I also like to understand people’s interpretations of my work, so I like to leave my work open-ended. My appointment to represent the UAE in Venice is a great honor and comes with great responsibility. Over the years and now more than ever, Maya has played a special role in delving deeper into my practice. This is certainly a fruitful way to mark our fifth exhibition together for the National Pavilion UAE at the Biennale Arte 2022.”
The exhibition’s accompanying book is a retrospective of Ibrahim’s life and work to date, and situates the artist in a global art-historical frame. The National Pavilion UAE launched this book during the inauguration, marking the first comprehensive monograph on the artist. Titled Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset / Works 1986-2022, it is co-edited by Maya Allison, and Cristiana de Marchi, artist, curator, and poet. With extensive essays from scholars, curators, and fellow artists, this book surveys Ibrahim’s biomorphic abstraction paintings of the 1980s, his Land Art experiments and immersive installations of the 1990s, and the evolution of his sculptures to date, and includes a comprehensive biographical timeline. It is published by Kaph Books.
A virtual tour of the exhibition is accessible on the National Pavilion UAE website. The book is also available for purchase at the Biennale bookstores in the Arsenale and Giardini and online at Kaph Books.