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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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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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