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‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum Ocula Report ‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum 19 Jul 2019 : Penny Liu for Ocula

An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...

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Mandy El-Sayegh: Productive Ambiguity Ocula Conversation Mandy El-Sayegh: Productive Ambiguity

Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...

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Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House Ocula Report Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House 5 Jul 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...

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Hassan Sharif

(1951 - 2016), UAE

Hassan Sharif lives and works in Dubai. He has made a vital contribution to conceptual art and experimental practice in the Middle East through 40 years of performances, installations, drawing, painting, and assemblage.

Prior to leaving the UAE to study in England in 1979, Sharif gained attention for his cartoons published in the UAE press – ironic, outspoken critiques of the rapid industrialisation of the Emirates and political deadlock of ‘70s Arab Nationalism. As an artist, he rejected calligraphic abstraction, which was becoming the dominant discourse in the Middle East at that time, and pursued instead a pointedly contemporary vocabulary, drawing on the non-elitism and intermedia of Fluxus and the potential in British Constructionism’s systemic processes of making.

Sharif graduated from The Byam Shaw School of Art, London, in 1984 and returned to the UAE shortly after. He set about staging interventions and the first exhibitions of contemporary art in Sharjah, as well as translating art historical texts and manifestos into Arabic so as to provoke a local audience to engage with – or at least reject– contemporary art discourse.

Beginning in 1982, Sharif began to formulate and document private performances of mundane activities (e.g. discussing art in a toilet cubicle with the faculty of The Byam Shaw School, jumping or digging holes in the UAE desert). Simultaneously, he began work on what he calls ‘Experiments’ – formal exercises, like counting cars on a street in Dubai or tracing every instance of the letter ’t’ on a page of The Daily Mail newspaper. These absurdist and purposely boring practices were initially performed, in part, as an ironic response to the functionality of economics and globalisation: uselessness as gesture. This critical stance, what he calls ‘positive irony’, has since been developed on in subsequent works in other mediums.

Sharif started creating his Objects in the 1980s using found industrial materials or mass-produced items purchased in markets and stores around the UAE. ‘Weaving’ these objects together with rope, coil and twine, the heaps and bundles that Sharif creates become a visualisation of the surplus of mass-production – the commonly unseen byproduct of the UAE’s globalised, consumerist society that developed since independence. Sharif’s Objects – which handed cheap, mass-produced or discarded materials back to society as artworks – were a vital instrument in provoking and engaging UAE audiences with contemporary art in the 1980s.

Sharif’s Semi-Systems were initially informed by British Constructionism and particularly Kenneth Martin’s notion of ‘Chance and Order’. Sharif invents a set of rules, following this system to create line drawings that transform within a grid and colour studies on paper. Sharif revels in the mistakes and errors that naturally occur in the monotonous creation of the work, believing that “‘Art’ is a result of errors”.

In addition to his own practice, Sharif has encouraged and supported several generations of artists in the Emirates. He is a founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society (founded 1980) and of the Art Atelier in the Youth Theater and Arts, Dubai. In 2007, he was one of four artists to establish The Flying House, a Dubai institution for promoting contemporary Emirati artists. The first Emirati to have his work shown in the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, Sharif was also selected to be the debut artist to represent the UAE during its first national pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009. In 2011, Sharif was the subject of a retrospective exhibition, Hassan Sharif: Experiments & Objects 1979-2011, curated by Catherine David and Mohammed Kazem, presented by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage/Platform for Visual Arts.

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In Ocula Magazine

One belt, one road, one  biennale: Yinchuan's stand against cultural desertification Ocula Report One belt, one road, one biennale: Yinchuan's stand against cultural desertification 1 Nov 2016 : Sam Gaskin for Ocula

Over 70 artists from 33 countries are represented in the inaugural Yinchuan Biennale, which opened amidst scandal on 9 September 2016. Not included is a work by Ai Weiwei, who was invited to take part alongside other art stars Yoko Ono and Anish Kapoor before being disinvited just weeks before the opening.In a tweet, Ai connects the...

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Hassan Sharif Ocula Conversation Hassan Sharif Artist, Dubai

Hassan Sharif lives and works in Dubai. He has made a vital contribution to conceptual art and experimental practice in the Middle East through 40 years of performances, installations, drawing, painting, and assemblage. In his early artistic maturation, Sharif rejected calligraphic abstraction, which was becoming the predominant art discourse in...

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In Related Press

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Hassan Sharif, a pioneer of conceptual art in the Middle East, dies at 65 Related Press Hassan Sharif, a pioneer of conceptual art in the Middle East, dies at 65 ARTNews : 20 September 2016

Hassan Sharif, perhaps the most important artist ever to come out of the United Arab Emirates, whose work revolutionized conceptual art in the Middle East, and whose assemblages tackled modernization and overproduction, died in Dubai yesterday. He was 65. Alexander Gray Associates, which represents Sharif, confirmed the news...

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5 international biennials and triennials not to miss around Asia in Fall 2016 Related Press 5 international biennials and triennials not to miss around Asia in Fall 2016 Art Radar Journal : 31 August 2016

From the 7th edition of Korea’s Busan Biennale to Japan’s new Triennial the Okayama Art Summit, these five international events will provide thoughtful reflection on new and refreshing curatorial practices in the context of the Biennale infrastructure.

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China’s Yinchuan City to host its first biennale in September 2016 Related Press China’s Yinchuan City to host its first biennale in September 2016 e-flux : 1 June 2016

Madam Liu, Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Yinchuan (MOCA Yinchuan), announced today that the museum will hold its first biennale. To be curated by internationally acclaimed artist, curator and co-founder of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Bose Krishnamachari, the exhibition will be held from September 9 to December 18, 2016 on the premises of MOCA...

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Abu Dhabi Art 2015 Related Press Abu Dhabi Art 2015 ArtAsiaPacific : 23 November 2015

For its 7th edition, Abu Dhabi Art brought together 40 galleries from around the world—including the United States, Europe and Asia, as well as those from the Middle East—to showcase modern and contemporary art at Manarat al-Saadiyat. In addition to the galleries, the art fair also presented discussions, performances and interactive...

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