Gallery IVDE is proud to present the first solo show in Dubai by Abraaj Prize 2009 winner Zoulikha Bouabdellah in Set Me Free From My Chains.
Couples of giant colorful Arabic letters cut out of aluminum sheets or formed of flashing neon hang randomly on the wall in a playful and lighthearted manner. They are deceptively simple. The elements are familiar - strings of neon twisted to form colorful letters. Yet their unconventional positioning and movement mount a remarkably visceral spectacle, with the suggestive title Hobb (Arabic for Love) functioning as an integral part o f t he beguiling ensemble.
A product of a rigorous process of conceptual and formal reasoning, Hobb defies the border between representation and abstraction. It constitutes not simply the materials and the flashy colors installed in the space but also, perhaps more importantly, the set of conditions or limitations that have been their source of inspiration.
The work is inspired by the extensive heritage of Arabic love poetry, a treasury of sexual innuendo with a conspicuous absence of the human body. Zoulikha finds its literary opposite in Indian culture, where sexuality is largely uninhibited, with works like the Kama Sutra always having been illustrated. Thus tackling the subject of representing love and its physical expression, she uses calligraphy to achieve a scantily veiled abstraction of the human form.
‘Set me Free from my Chains’, the body of works which also lend its name to the title of the exhibition, comprises hanging sculptures where the letters forming the sentence “Set Me Free from My Chains’ are carved in wood and hang from a giant paper nail. Reminiscent of the way to do notes are nailed on a board, (that’s how Zoulikha’s mother use to remind her daughters about their chores, nailing little notes ‘broom the court, make your bed, etc … on the curtains of their bedrooms). Playfully and ironically, the ‘chore’ here is Umm Kulthum famous phrase ‘Set me Free from my Chains’. Extracted from a song evoking a past love story emblematic of the typical themes of love, longing and loss extensively explored in Arab poetry. Called the fourth pyramid, Umm Kulthum’s fame and influence grew beyond the artistic scene, and in patriotic fashion, Zoulikha interprets Umm Kulthum’s song as more than just a love song but a clear stance for the rights of women in the Arab world, and even a lyric evocation of the act of love.
Exhibition dates: June 10 – July 23, 2010