The big autumn exhibition at the Sharjah Art Museum is a major retrospective for the NY-based Palestinian Samia Halaby, featuring around 180 works of various sizes from abstract paintings and sculptures to documentary drawings and digital works.
Internationally recognised as a leading abstract painter and an influential scholar of Palestinian art, Halaby says she uses visual abstraction to convert what our senses have stored in our memory – “what the viewer and I already know” – into abstract visual form; her work “mirrors our shared perception of the world we live in”, as she puts it.
Halaby is also dedicated advocate for Palestinian rights, though her experience of exile and displacement from her homeland 1948 rarely appears as content, though the 16 illustrative drawings that document a heartbreaking historical event – the Kafr Qasim Massacre of 1956 – are a notable exception. She does however suggest that being loyal to abstraction is itself a political act, and certainly she references Palestine in the titles of some of her works.
The exhibition is part of the Lasting Impressions series, held annually at the Sharjah Art Museum and focussing on prominent Arab artists who have left a lasting impression on the development and evolution of modern art in the Arab world. The extent and curation of these exhibitions has always been very good; given the rich source material, we expect nothing less from the Samia Halaby show.
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