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CAST AWAY: THE MUSEUM EDITION PART 2

10 September 2020

Imagine the scene – the storm rages, the waves crash down and your small boat is sinking fast. Quick! What would you grab to take with you as you start swimming to that nearby desert island?

Welcome to the second part of our Cast Away series, where we ask our guests this question and give them the luxury of picking their three essential objects from the museum’s collection. This month we have Lina Ramadan, Assistant Curator at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and a key person supporting the display of artworks and ideas and development of curatorial programmes at the museum.

Join us as we explore Ramdan’s top picks for the desert island in the second edition of our new series, Cast Away: The Museum Edition. 

“The first object I [would] select is by Mahood Ahmed because it’s about the celebration of love. It showcases the warmth of a relationship, symbolised by a rose – a central element [that is] positioned parallel to the two lovers' hearts.

The Gift by Mahood Ahmed, 1993 

 

Mahood Ahmed (b.1940), The Gift, 1993. Oil on canvas, 90 x 70 cm. Collection Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha
Mahood Ahmed (b.1940), The Gift, 1993. Oil on canvas, 90 x 70 cm. Collection Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

Like the tale of Layla and the Majnun or modern poems by May Ziadeh and Mahmoud Darwish, The Gift (1993) is a visual representation of ancient poetry that embraces relationships, friendship and heritage. Twentieth-century artists including Mahood highlight the value of familial bonds and relationships as a symbol of newly independent Arab nations. I personally see this work resembling the notion of tradition and culture, summarised in the headdress worn by the woman and man, the tribal tattoo, as well as the earthly colours embedded within the painting. [They] all emphasise the eternal existence of culture and intimacy as a commentary of their power beyond political meanings. Culture, love and [the] desert go hand in hand.” 

The Pyramid, The Civilization, Symbolism Through Ants by Taheya Halim, 1960

 

Taheya Halim (1919-2003), The Pyramid, the Civilization, Symbolism Through Ants, 1960. Collection Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha
Taheya Halim (1919-2003), The Pyramid, the Civilization, Symbolism Through Ants, 1960. Collection Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

“The second object I would choose is a multi-dimensional artwork by the pioneering artist Taheya Halim, titled The Pyramid, The Civilization, Symbolism Through Ants (1960). Taheya is known for her depiction of the indigenous people of Nubia. She devoted her career highlighting their lives and connection with Egypt’s ancient and modern history. This work is an expansion of that exploration. In its abstracted form, resembling a pyramid or perhaps a pharaonic past, the civilisation shown appears to consist of ants. This intriguing symbolism refers to the mysteries of the past as it references identified individuals in recorded history [and] their lives. At the same time, it showcases the hard labour it takes to create civilisation. Ants here play the role of human civilisation because they too live in organised societies, form governments, have class structures and engage in hard labour to survive. It’s a powerful work that reminds me of the strength of an individual, of patience and leadership but also a reminder to not be constrained by convention. Ants enslave ants too. Taheya summarises this irony and multilayered meanings within one artwork. This is what makes the work iconic.”

Dance on Canal One by Samia Halaby, 1993 

 

Samia Halaby (b. 1936), Dance on Canal One, 1993. Mixed media on paper, 67 x 101 cm.  Collection Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha
Samia Halaby (b. 1936), Dance on Canal One, 1993. Mixed media on paper, 67 x 101 cm. Collection Mathaf, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

“Dance on Canal One (1993) is the third object I would take with me. It’s by the Palestinian artist Samia Halaby. The vibrant and diverse collage shapes show harmony through the dancing of colours. The beauty of this work lies within its abstraction. 

Samia is known for her experimentation with colour, which she started in the 1960s to speak of a language that sums up histories that are not often bright. The abstracted landscape shows the rhythm of nature in an unconventional attitude. Samia examines reality in ways in which it manifests through different formulas of shapes and scientific methods. She is a leading abstract artist, thinker, and scholar whose practice I admire. Her approach to how things are seen and experienced presents a different dimension to reality be it of a surrounding environment, society, or of a thought. Dance on Canal One celebrates these possibilities.

As a means of survival, be it spiritual or physical, each work would stand as a motivational force that would keep the soul fed and mind inspired. Mahood’s work stands as a witness of heritage and intimacy, Taheya’s pyramid expands across civilisations and time,  [and] Samia’s work investigates alternative ways of looking and the manifestation of optical illusion through physical objects.”

For more information about Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art following its public reopening, head on over to the website and check out exciting new exhibitions currently on display. 

Stay tuned for more posts from our series, Cast Away: The Museum Edition

 

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