Salman Al Najem’s work is a dialogue that questions issues related to important parts of the human experience. Salman aims to redirect humankind’s attention from mortal desires, fascination with material wealth and luxury, mediocrity, vanity and environmental corruption. In an optimistic manner his works aim to illuminate the importance of self mastery, spiritual connectivity, mindful-sensitivity, righteousness, virtuosity and environmental sustainability.
In Salman Al Najem’s “Suicide & Redemption” series, painted images allude to portray Al Najem’s internal frustrations and experiences in the Arab Peninsula’s new age, by creating works he considers to be contemporary Islamic Art. Al Najem’s practice and style, imaginaries are conjured from blackness, designating timely subjects to both the culmination of all light, wisdom and consciousness, as well as the lack of perception which ultimately leads to indulgence, ignorance and darkness. Through his own life, the series simulates a process of redemption through real and unearthly experiences articulating the artists’ trajectory of re-emergence from the obscurity between light (knowledge and reclamation) and gloom (helplessness and uncertainty).
The exhibition ‘Suicide & Redemption’ aims to take the viewer on the journey of a person who at a young age contemplates the idea of living, tries to find reason of why we live life. His sensitive connection to the negative, allows him to study how those around him choose to live. Al Najem affirms through his works, that the person lets go of cultural and dogmatic constraints and values. In a place of liberation the person finds his unique connection with the divine, and commits to the death he thought he sought.
The obscure entrapment manifests within the layers of each painting, projecting the expansion of new age experiences and its tensions with traditional beliefs and social application of religion in the Arab Gulf region.
Each piece is composed of anatomical, metaphysical and culturally celebratory icons expressing the corruption and hypocrisy of knowledge in our time and the folding of socio-cultural and psychological evolutions of culture social application of religion in the region.
Delving into a mystical and growing inner awareness of life and death as reflected in daily events and symbolism, Al Najem presents an anti-narrative concerning money, time, mortality, idolism, dogma, fantasy and mortality.
The Japanese emerging artist based in Tokyo has a notable background in architecture and design from her study at the Musashino Art University that impacted her aesthetic. Focused on the harmony of light and humans, Hitomi Sato finds inspiration in the observation of everyday unexpected beauty produced by organic elements crossing one another by sheer chance. The unveiling of rays of light touching asphalt, or the interaction between the natural laws of the weather and high-tech are all examples of the optic play she integrates in her immersive and harmonious artworks.
As she discusses her creation process, and her vision of the future of contemporary art and technology, Hitomi Sato expands on the role of the spectator’s intervention in achieving the release of resonances of one’s inner world and memories.
ArtPremium: What is the role of light in your artworks ?
Hitomi Sato“I treat the light as a medium. When we see the environment we see it through the light, which means that, as time goes by, it looks different, it changes, and you feel the time difference. But at that point, when we see the environment, we do not just see it—our body starts reacting and integrating into the particular environment. When you go back to daily life, there is so much information surrounding you that this body reaction doesn’t happen because the body is getting stiff. So what I am trying to do with the light is to release the tension of that stiff body, and I am trying to find out what is the best way to do it.”
The core essence of her art reveals itself in the tangibility and multi-sensorial experience. The temporal and spatial holistic approach in her Sense of Field (2016) work, a glimmering walkway packed with optic fibre-like radiant light film is telling of the artist’s interactive play with both the viewer and the artwork. “The audience has to feel”, and this sparking of body memory is the realisation of how the observer’s body will change when immersing itself into her optic and spatial illusion. Light, and especially natural light, has a polymorphic effect, and Hitomi Sato stresses on the freedom to choose the meaning we may find in the internal and physical involvement with the art piece, as a unique interaction, each time different.
Your installations immerse the viewer in your works while involving movement and touch. What is the role of the body in engaging ourselves with art?
Hitomi Sato : “Body involvement is very interesting because this happens without my intention in creating any particular object. There is no message in my art; I’d rather say that my art’s function is to nurture the mind and body of the observer, so that they can really define or feel their relationship between the inner and outer. Art is not just for the eyes, it is interesting for us, the creators, to make the audience understand that there are many ways to appreciate it using the five senses of the human body, including smelling, touching… The human body is great because it is not only the sight and the eyes which detect the walls surrounding you, the whole body is reacting to what they see and feel.”
What kind of colours do you usually tend to integrate and associate with light?
Hitomi Sato“My primary interest is in light, colour comes next. First of all, I am focusing on the light, and when I start focusing on the changes or metamorphose, then I think about the colour as a very subtle addition. I take great care when I choose the colours because, for me, it must be transparent, clear, and clean. I will not just use primary colours, but rather a subtle colour, which is closer to the light, to the sunlight.”
As a cascade of colorful panels hung from her installation Heart Washing Room, Hitomi Sato’s meticulous and elegant work engage with the landscape or urban architecture surrounding the artwork, taking into account the rhythm associated with the constant growing of a city or the dichotomic framework between order and disorder. As she explores the relationship between human beings and nature, her art forms a bridge between the outside and the inside, as a means to enhance the sense of feel. In Light of Temple that Sato created in a Buddhist temple out of an exquisite light phenomenon, she intents to recreate the serenity of being in a hut and feeling nature’s special beauty.
Thus, greatly inspired by the Japanese culture, she mentions the sunpou寸法(measurement) specific to the Japanese strict way of making regulated or customized actions, sharing the time, or judging collectively materials and things. The thorough Japanese control, patterns, keeping a distance is analogous to the fusuma, the Japanese sliding doors made of paper, whose primary function is to shut down the outside world while still being able to feel the slightest change of the environment, light or sound. Feeling this blurry and flexible limit between the inner energies and the external nature is what Hitomi Sato renews in her artworks.
Organic elements often play a role in your installations or objects. How do you establish relations between the natural environment and the universe through the human senses—also regarding the Komorebi effect?
“I am always interested in the human being. As you live, there is an accumulation of customs, for example common sense, which comes from all the information accumulated in one’s life. What I like to try is to release those elements from the human body and mind, and let the audience or observer be free from it. What I personally think about the modern world is that we are losing the archetype—the original, basic or fundamental things are now broken up. We lost the focal point and the point of reliance.
I am trying to evoke the primitive memories of the human being by causing the vibration which can connect us to the primitive or the cosmos. When you see the shimmering water or the komorebi—the light pouring through the tree leaves—we feel that it is such a lovely landscape. Yet, that kind of feeling started from the old archetypical memory, which maybe the primitive people also had. That, I think, is the vibration and the repetition of light and nature.”
ArtPremium: Through the influence of design you also use ordinary or plain materials in your different works. How do you integrate nature and design in your work? Is it a way to reconnect everyday objects with immaterial or spiritual senses?
Hitomi Sato“I think the process of making my art is more important, and especially regarding the materials. I am always trying to see things purely so that the materials shouldn’t be seen as materials. For example, if you take the example of acrylic, we sort of have a presumed concept that this thing is transparent and hard, but I intentionally tried to break that prejudice, just like the primitive people who have never seen acrylic before. So my main function and main concern is to deconstruct the already constructed concept and way of seeing.”
Hitomi Sato first studied architecture, without aiming to become an architect as she was more concerned about the performance space, the philosophical aspect of degeneration,“ how one piece a wall will affect the human being, and his mind and body,” and the Japanese unique way of sensing time and space. She continued her study in a graduate school with a major in science of design, where she studied basic theories of design and the Bauhaus. Her minimalistic design and various works have been exhibited in numerous countries since 2012, from a Wall exhibition in Bologna, Italy, to a project in Melbourne, Australia around the tea ceremony. Her more recent works are collaborations between architecture and art, as well as the study of the ever-present intricate relationship between individuals and nature. While exploring the three fields of art, architecture, and design, Hitomi Sato’s aesthetical aspiration is now to show the audience how to touch the light and to depict the morning sun.
Water & Ashes for Creative (R)Evolution: Art in the HK Protests
Kacey Wong, The Shield (performance), 2019
The exhibition in Paris is inspired by the plethora of recent creations by various artists and the Hong Kong public during the recent protests against police violence and authoritarianism. The leaderless movement and its fluid, innovative tactics in Hong Kong have impressed the world. The unwritten guiding principle of this decentralised movement, ‘Be Water’, was inspired by the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee’s philosophy, ‘Be formless, shapeless, like water…Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.’
Badiucao, Bruce Lee Lennon Wall (b), 2019
The majority of the artists contributing to the exhibition are from Hong Kong. Witnessing the struggle and suffering of the people in their hometown, they turned to art as their way of expression. In face of Hong Kong’s dwindling liberty, they are determined not to be silenced. Such determination echoes a popular quote among protesters from Jack London, renowned novelist, journalist and social activist, ‘I would rather be ashes than dust! …The function of man is to live, not to exist.’
Revolving around the fluidity of the movement and the resolute determination of protesters, Water and Ashes brings Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and democracy to Paris through a variety of mediums. Some artists and their works were directly involved in the protests—either performed live in protest areas, or as protest materials or interactive art, from Victoria Park to Hong Kong International Airport. Others, through poetry, photography, digital paintings and illustrations, present their perspectives and express their emotions as they watch their city burn. The exhibition also features works of a French artist and an American artist, testimony to fact that ideas are not only bulletproof but also go beyond boundaries.
Harcourt Romanticist, Our Vantage, 2019
What’s the drive for the explosion of creativity among the Hong Kong public and protesters? The relationship between resistance, consciousness, life, and creativity is at the heart of this exhibition’s philosophy. Resistance is something visible in protests while it is the major invisible force underlying the development of contemporary art—which is about resistance of what the traditions or authorities deem normal, matched with an insistence on thinking and expressing freely and out of the box. Therefore, resistance is about questioning the existing order. While the authorities accuse the Hong Kong protesters of instigating chaos in society, the real question is, ‘order is certainly contingent, but in relation to what’? Order is a constructed and fluid concept, which evolves and is criticised, challenged and modified throughout our human history. Questioning as well as a subversion of order, embedded with our creativity, does not imply a necessary antagonism between order and chaos, between norms and anomie; rather, it ensures our society to be free and open, enabling a genuine diversity of cultures and social orders.
Justin Wong, I See You, 2019
Consciousness is indispensable not only in any social changes, but also in creativity. As consciousness corresponds exactly to the living being’s power of choice and is coextensive with the fringe of possible action that surrounds the real action, consciousness is synonymous with invention and with freedom.
Philosopher Henri Bergson equates life with creation while creativity is central to life for Gilles Deleuze as what he called ‘becoming’. Thus, while political movement may be traumatic, the creativity out of this batter for freedom is leading to transformation of the social and art scenes. The exhibition is an initial attempt to witness such creative evolution, if not revolution.
Tommy Fung, Hungry Ghost Festival, 2019
Alcohol Salon, Hong Kong
Alice Kahei Yu, Hong Kong
Chan Sai Lok, Hong Kong
Diana Wege, United States
Fung Kin Fan, Hong Kong
Harcourt Romanticist, Hong Kong
Hector Bouhier, France
Him Lo, Hong Kong
Justin Wong, Hong Kong
Kacey Wong, Hong Kong
Lumli Lumlong, Hong Kong
Nicola Longobardi, Hong Kong
RC Team, Hong Kong
Tommy Fung, Hong Kong
Vivian Ho, Hong Kong
Water and Ashes for Creative (R)Evolution 3-7 December 2019 DOC, 26 rue du Dr Potain, 75019 Paris, France Vernissage | 3 December 2019, 6:30-9:30pm
Through her use of poetic and profound subject matter, Laura Berson is on a quest to figure out her position in the world in relation to the elements that surround us.
Specialising in portrait and landscape photography and having won multiple awards, Berson has a professional background as an actress, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Her work focuses on the treatment of pictorial and cinematographic light, in which she refers to the dramatic use of light explored by the Dutch and Flemish painters from the seventeenth and early eighteenth century as a source of inspiration. Her artistic practice explores how the body, mind and nature are all interconnected. There is an ever-present element of nature in her work that is related to macro- and micro-organisms, things we do not see, but things that exist, and how everything is connected yet somewhat disconnected at the same time. She tries to express all that she doesn’t know,what she feels as a human being and her perception of the world, in order to find the essence of something. Her conceptualised artistic practice allows her to play on forms by expressing the infinitely large and infinitely small.
From the series “Efni”, 2018, C-print. Courtesy of the artist.
Berson began practising photography at age 19, and it is through her sensitivity and softness that she is inclined to approaching themes around the body of women, mixing eroticism and fantasy, and conveying a subtle world in which strength and fragility are two sides of the same coin. Her landscapes are often a purified attempt to transcribe an architectural universe in which Man is erased by its smallness. By orchestrating light and staging, she gives free reign to her sensibility and seeks to transcribe reality into a dreamlike and reassuring image. To dive out of everyday life allows her to better understand her positioning in the world from an objective point of view. Berson’s influence is varied, ranging from elements of the universe, nature, the environment, to how all of these overlap with one another in order to form a more complex system. Our position in the world and the footprint we leave on the environment are themes that are also explored, as well as how our bodies respond to illness. She is particularly attached to show that which we do not see, stating that some illnesses are not visible to the human eye at first glance, yet that doesn’t mean that the pain one is enduring does not exist, and to explore these ideas in an empathetic manner.
In 2013, she directed a documentary on identity and its relationship to art after having worked on various short films and clips as chief camera operator and assistant. Berson worked briefly in the fashion industry where she notes that we are all transcribing to unattainable ideals of what is considered the perfect body, or image, and that we are conditioned to think in certain ways through exploitation of these images. She felt a misconnection in the treatment of human beings, which led her to feel as though the industry was meaningless and sanitised. The true essence of what is meant to be human is lost, so in her work she tries to portray women (and human beings in general) as they really are, depicting them as imperfect while she steers away from stereotypes, showcasing their sensitivity and strength.
In October 2014 Berson recalls, “I came across an article about women who are sold as slaves in Iraq and Syria. It shocked me, even if this practice is not new. In early January 2015, I learned in a dreadful document from the Iraqi news agency Iraqinews (reported by the Parisian) of the prices these women are sold for, and how they are atrociously reduced to slavery. The novelty for me was that the sale price of these women was made public, official, written in black and white, and the older the woman, the less her worth. It’s as if they were advertised in some form of catalogue, except that the items are not clothes or furniture, but women of all ages. They are sold with a thirty-four-page “manual” on elaborate rape, like a product’s purchase notice. It’s easy to imagine for an object, much less for a human being. This instrumentalisation deeply shocked me”.
In response to this article, she presented a photo exhibition Ici et Maintenant at the Maison de la Mixité in Paris, alongside the association Ni Putes Ni Soumises. Inaugurated on 25th of November 2015, a day of struggle of violence against women, Ici et Maintenant showcases portraits of women and girls in light of the inhumane acts of certain cultures that still practice modern-day slavery. They are all depicted in the same fashion against a black background, where the women are dressed in a simple black T-shirt with a slate around their necks on which appears a price, and from time to time, a word. Their faces express a feeling of sadness, sorrow, despair, anger or incomprehension, symbolising the fact that women far too often have their identity stripped to a mere number and are treated as objects in society, and are considered inferior to that of men. The images in this series are presented as if it were someone you knew, to heighten the emotional attachment to the inexplicable ways, in which women are still treated in society today within certain cultures.
The artist and the series “Ici & Maintenant”, 2015, C-Print
Her work shares an interest in the investigation of identity and the place that each individual occupies in the world in relation to space, body, and consciousness. In her series Percipere, she experiments with a metaphysical doubt in a concrete way. The images pose certain questions, such as whether the body is connected to the mind, and reflect an impression of a world without meaning. The basis of the project lies in the way in which reality is constructed; a process in which our five senses intervene, and in a disorganised manner, cause our perception to change. This phenomenon referred to as derealisation, which simply put, is a disorder in which we perceive the self and the environment in a strange way. She raises this sense of not belonging to the world and the need to find a balance between these two points.
From the series “Le mythe d’Endomètre”, 2018, C-Print. Courtesy of the artist.
Berson was heavily influenced by the contemplative slowness of the film ‘The Sacrifice’ by Russian director Tarkovsky in her series Zhertva. She reflects this ambiance in her work through an ever-present solemn element, and tries to transcribe this feeling of loneliness that is felt in the film, with the main character being on a quest for the meaning of life surrounded by elements of nature which are always present but in unusual ways. It explores how everything is connected yet somewhat disconnected at the same time, and how our relationship to the body and our relationship to the world are deeply intertwined. She articulates a physical space and a lived space, with our experiences of life being both concretely and culturally constructed within our environment, and poses the question as to how the body is built in relation to the space we inhabit in the world.
Berson’s photographic practice is identified as a search for the essence of something, an identity we can prescribe to, in relation to that which we are surrounded by, in which multiple realities are possible. She invites the viewer to explore the sensitivities to her varied subject matters in an ethereal manner.
For his solo exhibition show, WHAT MY I’S HAVE SEEN, Koby Martin, Ghanaian-born painter, (b.1988) based in London, is collaborating with both The Who Gallery and Disturbing London for his most personal and intimate exhibition to date.
After revealing to his audience his most innermost thoughts about the tragic death of this Father through his previous show ASIAMAH, Koby will be continuing to divulge the depths of his mind to visually portray, through the medium of painting, a very humanistic outlook on his own life.
He is dealing with darker themes of depression, turmoil, and uncertainty in balancing contrast to the theme of hope and light. He is able to capture and reach out to his audience on a fundamentally primitive level denoting his ability to depict the vulnerable and emotional state of the human mind.
His unique styles have brought him to the attention of the British art scene as well as numerous commercial audiences through his collaboration with notable brands such as Mercedes- Benz.
Dancing with fear
WHAT MY I’S HAVE SEEN November 28- December 1, 2019 The Who Gallery, London, UK
Deciphering The Artist’s Mind: fremdkorper (Studio Koreans)
How is art transcending the artist’s historical and physical creative action? Dutch artist Berend Strik’s ongoing project Deciphering the Artist’s mind is the unfinished travel initiated in 2012 around past and present art memory, taking form in an immense body of photography artworks.
Since the visit of Manhattan studio of Marcel Duchamp, Strik has been taking for photography subjects these particular private places, where the energies and vibrations of the creative process suddenly reveal their history through the eyes of the Dutch artist. Photographing parts of the studio architectural space, Strik prints his work and adds multi-layered narratives through colored textiles stitched on the surface, composing a completely transformed work. Informative, interpretative, a tribute to influential figures, his three-dimensional photographs are like a mise en abyme, the capture of an exclusive moment of exchange between Strik and the different artists while conveying a personal theoretical reflexion on art.
Deciphering the Artist Mind – Studio W.D.K.
The international artists of each 68 studios visited by Berend Strik, – be them contemporaries or renowned past art history figures, like the studios of Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, John Baldessari, Martha Rosler, and others – are dimly present in the works at a phantasmagoric level. He demonstrates the intemporality of the creator’s soul, absent from the studio but still existing in the dialogue he establishes with the electrifying resonance of the studios’ creation memory.
Revolving his problematics around the myths of art creation, he endeavors to converse with the genius consecutively coming into being, artwork after artwork, in an intimate physical setting. The magic of the studio appropriated by the photograph is thus an endless investigation of the artistic mind projected into reality, and the seemingly impossible quest to conjure up the artists’ essence.
Deciphering the Artist Mind – Studio W.D.K.
In the continuity of the ambitious photography project, Berend Strik is pursuing the project with a book Deciphering the Artist’s mind designed by the internationally famous Dutch graphic designer Queen of Books Irma Boom. Promising to be a “real oeuvre d’art”, the illustrations of the book associated with Berend Strik texts and with Marja Bloem will offer new narratives and a complementary outlook to his artwork. Completed with a conversation of Berend Strik with selected artists, the book will be published in spring 2020.
Corinne Timsit and Berend Strik are announcing their collaboration on current and future projects.
Berend Strik was born in Nijmegen, The Netherlands in 1960, and lives and works in Amsterdam. He has exhibited in numerous art galleries, solo exhibition shows and major art institutions (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Tilton Gallery: New York, 5th Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon…) and is present in large collections (The Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden and Haags Gemeente Museum, S’Gravenhage)