Artists’ perception of the world embraces all aspects of life. As actors in civil society, they participate in public debates by questioning society on an individual and collective level. Hence, their work reflects their own experiences and the collective consciousness of society. There has been a close link between art and political, urban, and societal issues throughout the course of history. And this is still the case in an increasingly open world and environments that are being increasingly questioned by their populations, in terms of their relationship with others, freedom, modernity, and tradition; a close look at art can reveal much about a society’s characteristics and its relationship with the world.
In environments that are subject to urban gatherings, ultra-modernism, and the extension of the production of images and thoughts, art is an expression of shared experiences. The artistic themes tackled by artists in Asia and the Arab world, where social, political, religious, and cultural structures are undergoing a process of reorganisation, are in their own particular way a part of the upheavals that the world is experiencing. The works in the Basmoca collection presented in the exhibition ‘Shared Thoughts’ adopt a perceptive and documentary approach. Organised around themes that structure contemporary societies, they offer a comparative view of the East and West.
What’s your identity?
What is the place of the individual when confronted with changes in society and authority? In what way do modernity and the associated inconsistencies affect personal experiences? From bodily control to that of tastes, and the place of the individual in relation to the political, consumer, and religious systems, the artists depict a shared collective reality, by using the devices of fantasy and the fantastic, diversion, and symbols. Employing their art with great finesse and humour, they share their daily experiences, which are a combination of modernity and tradition.
Art and the sacred are closely linked. The extent to which the sacred plays a role in a society’s art attests to the importance it places on religion and, in doing so, highlights it as a whole. Spirituality, practices, rites, and religion’s relationship with secular power are core elements of the works presented in the exhibition. Man has always carefully designed objects for religious rites and to glorify faith, but the work of contemporary artists focuses on men and their practices, by questioning the links between religion, authority, and society.
The world is currently experiencing an extremely rapid urbanisation of rural and pastoral ways of life. These changes raise questions about family, social, economic, and also architectural issues. In just a few years, all sorts of extravagant high-rise buildings and artificial islands have been built and created, dramatically affecting landscapes, environments, flows, and history. The cosmopolitan cities are also unusual living spaces that are often continually undergoing construction, which raises questions about the place of the individual and introduces new aesthetics almost daily.
Abstract art is based on ideas, vision, and language. This form of creative activity is a conception of art that breaks away from the natural environment, influenced by scientific and technological progress. The notion of abstraction in contemporary art is philosophical and perceptive. By means of lines, geometry, and vegetal compositions, abstraction plays an important part in calligraphic art. Echoing the extensive heritage of Asian and Arab calligraphy, the artists offer a renewed stylistic language, by inventing and developing a new discursive form of this heritage.
Artists gain their inspiration from childhood experiences or the past, and combine this with various cultural elements—legendary stories—to create dreamlike, timeless works. This work, which is often sensitive and contemplative, combines spiritual, legendary, and imaginary elements. The works are often timeless, on the edge of reality, life and death, sunset and dawn, and are a reflection of the human condition, wavering between ideas and symbols.
Face to face
Beyond the apparent coldness of the chromatic palette, the works are strikingly pensive. Portraits of timeless families that combine the real and the imaginary, a daily sense of a normative or worrying banality, bring together—like a collection of stories and self-reflections—the family unit and others.
The Black Arch
Raja and Shadia Alem
The Black Arch, 2011
Stainless steel, cast iron, cloth, and stone, with projected photographs and a soundtrack
Jeddah; owner: Basmoca
‘In loving memory of Mohammed Walid Al Juffali who passed away at the young age of 23. May God rest his soul in peace.’
This monumental work is particularly remarkable because of the impression of lightness it conveys. The work, which was presented for the first time at the 2012 Venice Biennial, primarily seems to represent the rites of the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Hundreds of metallic balls symbolise the ṭawāf, the seven circumambulations of the Kaʿbah by thousands of pilgrims. The stones used for stoning are contained inside the cubic form that appears to levitate and symbolises the Kaʿbah. But behind the veiled black ellipse, thanks to an interplay of images and sounds, the visitor is immersed in the cosmopolitan mix of the cities of Mecca and Venice.