From Ground Up II
From the Ground Up II at Galleria Continua
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Until 12 November 2023, Galleria Continua in Dubai is holding the 2nd edition of the group show From the Ground Up which pays tribute to the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel, Dubai’s landmark. The artists participating in From the Ground Up II are Daniel Buren, Alejandro Campins, Loris Cecchini, Nikhil Chopra, JR, Moataz Nasr, Pascale Marthine Tayou, José Yaque, and Sislej Xhafa.

The exhibition reflects on the evolving landscape of Dubai and Burj Al Arab itself. The exhibited art pieces take visitors on an archaeological and spiritual journey and allow them to dive into the stories within the formation of minerals and explore humanity’s relationship with nature.

In the exhibition, renowned French artist Daniel Buren is represented by his in situ art piece L’Horizon, Infiniment specially created for the gallery with the space’s architecture in mind. One must experience this work before it disappears or is produced again in another form and place. Devoted to temporality, the artwork enables us to see what is usually invisible to us.

Landscape is at the core of Cuban artist Alejandro Campins‘ practice. He works with objects and places which mark the passing of time and can influence mindsets and ideologies. In his exhibited painting Rio Muerto from the Badlands series (2019), he reimagines earth as an indication of life and archaeological evidence.

Alejandro Campins, Rio muerto, from the series Badlands, 2019. Oil on canvas. 110 × 150 × 5 cm

Recognised Italian artist Loris Cecchini‘s work lies at the intersection of science and art. His creations illustrate the mathematical foundation of nature and are related to biological impulses. Diagram bushes Here and There and Everywhere (the artist’s sculptural installation on view) is inspired by natural forms and processes. Comprising multiple elements resembling living cells, one may call it a biological metaphor.

Loris Cecchini, Diagram bushes Here and There and Everywhere, 2013. Welded steel modules.
53 1/10 × 29 1/2 × 29 1/2 in | 135 × 75 × 75 cm

In his drawing performances, Indian artist Nikhil Chopra‘s personas return to new, familiar, and sublime landscapes. It is a moment of reflection in times of transition for him. With no presence of life, the resulting landscape suggests the possibility of worlds untouched by temporality, productivity, and extraction. The exhibition features the artist’s drawing Burn created in the UAE in 2023 during his live performance.

French art practitioner JR showcases his Secret of the Great Pyramid (its photograph, to be precise). A collaborative work, this enormous paper collage was placed across the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The courtyard became an area of deep excavation or an archaeological study and thus changed the spectators’ perception.

JR, The Secret of the Great Pyramid. Louvre Museum, Paris, 2019.

The Mountain, a video by Egyptian artist and cultural activist Moataz Nasr, was first demonstrated at the 57th Venice Biennale. At the centre of the story is a girl who challenges the superstitions and conventions of her village. In this work, a geological phenomenon symbolises the triumph of human knowledge over fear.

Cameroon-born artist Pascale Marthine Tayou operates images and forms originating from national and economic symbols and art references. In his diverse works, he delves into post-colonial African identity in today’s world. His exhibited installation Branch of Life composed of a crystal mask and a bronze branch is a metaphor for an individual moving through current times.

To produce his paintings, Cuban artist José Yaque applies the pigment by hand and wraps a canvas in plastic. He draws inspiration from natural phenomena often resembling organic materials. As its title suggests, his painting Limonita I (2014) displayed in the exhibition reminds one of the limonite mineral).

José Yaque, Limonita I, 2014. Acrylic paint, enamel on canvas.
55 1/10 × 55 1/10 × 1 3/5 in | 140 × 140 × 4 cm

Concetto in Exile by Kosovar-Albanian artist Sislej Xhafa based in New York bears many layers of history and the formation of new meanings. He created it using the PVC fabric from advertising truck boards exposed to harsh weather conditions. The artist says this artwork expresses a “space between nostalgia and hope”.

Sislej Xhafa, Concetto in Exile, 2016. PVC advertising truck boards on stretcher. 88 × 150 cm

About the artists

Daniel Buren (b. 1938, France) is based in Paris. A conceptual artist, he is interested in the nature of art. Buren investigates how art, museums, and audiences relate to each other. Through his in situ installations, he makes one pay attention to often unseen political, economic, and ideological characteristics of a specific site.

Alejandro Campins (b. 1981, Cuba) lives and works in Madrid (Spain). In his paintings, drawings, and photographs, he explores the landscape genre and places with an emotional charge that challenges our perception of space and time. His artworks convey an otherworldly atmosphere.

From the Ground Up II (exhibition view). Galleria Continua, Dubai, 2023. Photo: Musthafa Aboobaker.

Loris Cecchini (b. 1969, Italy) resides in Berlin (Germany) and works in different mediums. Using scientific means, he discovers more intimate structures. After studying a certain natural phenomenon, the artist uses diverse technologies to present an augmented vision of this phenomenon in his sculptures, installations, and photo works.

Nikhil Chopra (b. 1974, Kolkata, India) lives in Goa (India). Employing painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography, he delves into such themes as identity, politics, history, and the body. The artist is famous for his durational performances in which he takes on the persona of various characters.

JR (b. 1983, France) is a photographer and street artist known for fly-papering large black-and-white photos of his artworks in public places. The subjects he explores in his art are commitment, freedom, identity, and limits.

Moataz Nasr (b. 1961, Egypt) from Cairo creates paintings, sculptures, video works, and installations. He draws from his childhood memories, frustrations, and the society surrounding him. Nasr shows cultural processes happening in the Islamic world.

Pascale Marthine Tayou (b. 1967, Nkongsamba, Cameroon) lives and works between Cameroon and Belgium. Taking cues from his extensive travels, his drawings and sculptures address different societal problems. Tayou also combines popular visual cultures and social realities to create curious installations.

From the Ground Up II (exhibition view). Galleria Continua, Dubai, 2023. Photo: Ismail Noor / Seeing Things.

José Yaque ( (b. 1985, Cuba) creates paintings, drawings, installations, and art objects. He investigates the relationship between man and the natural world. For him, nature is not only organic but also incorporates everything that surrounds us.

In his sculptures, drawings, performances, and photos, Sislej Xhafa (b. 1970, Kosovo) reflects on the social, economic, and political realities connected with the different issues of modern society.

You can learn more about From the Ground Up II on its official web page.

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