Curated trail: Abstract art

20 November 2017Mahnaz Fancy
Curated trail: Abstract art

”What is real is not the external form but the essence of things. Starting from this truth it is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real by imitating its exterior surface” — Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957)

Art experimentation by early 20th-century artists like Constantin Brancusi, Fernand Leger, and Pablo Picasso paved the way for the shift from realist or representational art to modern abstract art.

This term is used to describe a painting, sculpture, and even film composed of a visual language that has been reduced to its elements (colour, line, texture, pattern, shape, symbol, light or sound). Instead of imitating or copying visual reality of an object, figure or landscape, the artist communicates his or her perspective and invites viewers to engage through their own imagination.

Abstract art should be seen as an “experience”—so rather than trying to figure out what it is supposed to look like or mean, just let your eyes travel around the works and note your responses.

  1. Jean-Paul Najar Foundation 

Olivier Mosset: Abstraction (6 November 2017 - 28 February 2018)

“One of the most striking of abstract art’s appearances is her nakedness, an art stripped bare”—Robert Motherwell

Swiss-born and US-based Mosset (b. 1944) is known for his minimalist geometric abstraction, reducing art down to the primary elements of colour and form. He made over 200 monochromatic paintings of circles between ‘72 and '76 before moving on to other geometric forms. Examine the works closely—how do they interact with each other?
Location: Warehouse 45

  1. Carbon 12 Gallery

André Butzer: N Paintings (8 November 2017 - 10 January 2018)

“Everything is expressed through relationship. Colour can exist only through other colours, dimension through other dimensions…That is why I regard relationship as the principal thing”—Piet Mondrian

German painter Butzer (b. 1973) has explored colour and light through his “N-Bilder" series since 2010, this exhibition includes works from 2016 and 2017. At first glance, the flat two-colour paintings of rectangar shaped appear severe but look more closely at where the brown and white meet and the texture of the paint—do you see any other colours?
Location: Warehouse 37

  1. Custot Gallery Dubai

Ian Davenport: Cascade (5 November 2017 - 6 January 2018)

“Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays” —Wassily Kandinsky

British painter, Davenport (b. 1966) creates his bright coloured paintings by pouring or dripping paint onto a flat surface, relying on gravity and weight to move the colour into abstract compositions. His painting process relies on a balance between control and chance, bringing a musical element to his play on tone. Can you sense the rhythm of his compositions?
Location: Warehouse 84

  1. Leila Heller Gallery

Jacob Hashimoto: The Eclipse (21 September 2017 to 31 December 2017)

“The composition is the organized sum of the interior functions of every part of the work”—Wassily Kandinsky

Drawing on his Japanese heritage, New York-based Hashimoto creates three-dimensional structures composed of thousands of miniature paintings on kites of bamboo-stiffened rice paper hexagons that are then suspended with nylon fishing line. Take a moment to look closely at an individual kite before moving back to see the whole composition.
Location: Warehouse 86/87

  1. Green Art Gallery

Group Exhibition: Theater of the Absurd (September 2017 - January 2018) 

“Energy and motion made visible – memories arrested in space”―Jackson Pollock

In this group exhibition, five female artists from Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia and Spain explore the relationship between abstract art and architecture. Look closely at Nika Neelova’s Leminiscate and you will notice that the sculptural work is composed of pieces of wooden banister handrails a material that bares traces of the many hands that touched it over the years.
Location: Warehouse 28

  1. Elmarsa Gallery

Thameur Mejri: Heretic Spaces (September 2017 - January 2018) 

“There was no telling who this head, or this leg, or that arm, belonged to...So I scattered the limbs in my painting and realized that in this way I was getting much closer to the truth than Michelangelo did”—Fernand Legér

Mejri’s experimental style that draws on painting, drawing, and video practices to examine how social, political and cultural dynamics in the Arab world, and especially Tunisia, are projected on the male body through images in mass media.

Location: Warehouse 23

  1. Grey Noise

Michael John Whelan: The Good Soil (8 November - 30 December 2017) 

“To me, a story can be both concrete and abstract, or a concrete story can hold abstractions. And abstractions are things that really can't be said so well with words”—David Lynch

Irish multi-disciplinary artist Whelan examines our relationship with nature and how short-sighted and destructive they can be through his new film. In order to communicate his extensive research and complex ideas, he relies on the elements of the  through film, which is central to the exhibition, diverse places and people are brought together in a voiceover-led journey. Amongst others, the locations include the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the oldest non-clonal trees in Europe and a coin tree in England that was poisoned by generations of votive offerings. The voice of renowned paleobiologist George Poinar Jr., who discovered the oldest ever plant sample in amber, accompanies the striking imagery. His research was the inspiration for the Jurassic Park novel and subsequent films.

Location: Warehouse 24 

  1. Lawrie Shabibi

Shahpour Pouyan: My Place is the Placeless (6 November 2017 - 1 January 2018)

“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes”—Arshile Gorky

Iranian-born and New York-based artist Pouyan (b. 1979) translates the results of his genetic ancestry into a series of ceramic domes modeled on various architectural structures from around the world. 
Location: Warehouse 21

  1. Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

mentalKLINIK: Truish (8 November – 30 December 2017)

“The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.”—Lucian Freud 

Turkish-born and Brussels-based artist duo :mentalKLINIK is a collaboration between Yasemin Baydar (b. 1972) and Birol Demir (b. 1967) How does one gauge the truthiness of something? What you see in this exhibition is perhaps true – or maybe not, and this ambiguity becomes the fuel to question our reality and surroundings. With a keen interest in invisible politics and dynamics that shape our everyday lives, :mentalKLINIK reveal awkward, alien and surreal elements into the exhibition space.
Location: Warehouse 17


Mahnaz Fancy led a curated trail on abstract art around Alserkal Avenue on 11 November 2017. We encourage visitors to recreate this trail and make use of Fancy's notes along the way. 

Abstract art should be seen as an “experience”—so rather than trying to figure out what it is supposed to look like or mean, just let your eyes travel around the works and note your responses.