Reading 6 min

Staged at GALLERIA CONTINUA in Dubai, From the Ground Up is a group show featuring nine artists represented by the gallery: Loris Cecchini, Marta Spagnoli, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Alejandro Campins, José Yaque, Sislej Xhafa, JR, Daniel Buren, and Moataz Nasr. The exhibition reflects on Dubai’s changing landscape and the city’s symbol Burj Al Arab Hotel built on an artificial island. The displayed art pieces share the theme of earth, one of the four elements forming the hotel’s visual aesthetics.

Loris Cecchini‘s installation “Diagram bushes Here and There and Everywhere” draws inspiration from forms and processes found in nature. Cecchini brings science and art together to create a series of works which illustrate the mathematical foundation of nature and relate them to biological impulses. The sculpture composed of numerous elements may be called a biological metaphor as they resemble living cells.

Loris Cecchini, Diagram bushes Here and There and Everywhere, 2013.
Welded steel modules. 135 × 75 × 75 cm. Photo: Ismail Noor / Seeing Things.

In her work, Marta Spagnoli creates a dialogue between the bareness of the earth and the human body and examines our physiological attachment to nature. Her painting “Pilgrims” depicts fluctuating figures which form a universe through pictorial practice and mythical shapes. Through her practice, the artist aims to raise awareness about ecological sustainability and issues.

Pascale Marthine Tayou‘s visual language is composed of images and forms rooted in national and economic symbols and artistic references. In his art, Tayou explores post-colonial African identity in the world today. His installation “Branch of Life”, a crystal mask hanging off of a branch made of bronze, embodies an individual moving through current times.

Alejandro Campins works with objects and places that mark the passing of time and that are capable of influencing mindsets and ideologies. With soil as its key theme, his painting on view, “Rio Muerto” from the series “Badlands” (2019), reconsiders 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.

José Yaque‘s abstract paintings are inspired by natural phenomena that often resemble organic materials (minerals, plants, and stones). His art-making process involves applying the pigment by hand and then wrapping a canvas in plastic. “Limonita I” (2014) reminds one of limonite, a mineral created by natural iron oxidation collected over some time.

In “Concetto in Exile” by Sislej Xhafa, one can find many layers of history and the formation of new meanings. This art piece is made using the PVC fabric from advertising truck boards which were exposed to harsh weather conditions. According to the artist, the artwork expresses a “space between nostalgia and hope”.

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

“The Secret of the Great Pyramid” by JR is a gigantic paper collage that was placed across the Louvre Museum’s courtyard in Paris for the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid. A collaborative artwork, the collage transformed the courtyard into an area of deep excavation or an archaeological study and thus, changed the viewers’ perception.

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

Daniel Buren‘s in situ work “L’Horizon, Infiniment” specially created for the gallery is dedicated to temporality. The art piece must be seen before it disappears or is produced again in another form and place. It shows the viewers what is behind us and what is usually invisible to us.

“The Mountain”, a five-channel video by Moataz Nasr, was first showcased at the 57th Venice Biennale. The work follows a young girl who challenges the superstitions and conventions of her village. Here, a geological phenomenon serves as a metaphor for the triumph of human knowledge over fear.

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

About the participating artists

Loris Cecchini (b. 1969, Italy), one of the most prominent Italian artists, resides in Berlin, Germany, and works in different mediums. In his art practice, he aims to go beyond the solely aesthetic aspect of nature. Employing scientific means (he often uses a microscope), the artist discovers more intimate structures. After thoroughly studying a particular phenomenon, Cecchini uses various technologies to present an augmented vision of the phenomenology of nature in his art pieces (sculptures, installations, and photographic works).

Marta Spagnoli (b. 1994, Italy) is an artist living and working in Verona. In her paintings and drawings, she combines organic, mythological, and anthropomorphic elements. Her work includes using photographic documentation, scientific illustrations, and ancient, classic and contemporary poetic traditions. Among the things she focuses on in her art is the theme of relationships between the human experience, the animal kingdom, and the environment which hosts them.

Pascale Marthine Tayou (b. 1967, Cameroon) lives and works between Yaounde, Cameroon, and Ghent, Belgium. His diverse artistic practice features sculpting, drawing, installations, and video works. Through his art influenced by travelling, Tayou redefines postcolonial culture and raises questions about globalisation.

Alejandro Campins (b. 1981, Cuba) resides in Madrid, Spain. His paintings, drawings, and photographs are devoted to the exploration of the landscape genre and places with a strong emotional charge that challenges our perception of space and time. Campins’ artworks convey an otherworldly atmosphere which suggests emptiness but is simultaneously filled with a powerful psychological charge.

José Eduardo Yaque (b. 1985, Cuba) is a multidisciplinary artist: his practice engages painting, drawing, and creating installations and art objects. He delves into the relationship between man and the natural world and considers nature to be not only organic but also incorporate everything that surrounds and accompanies us.

Sislej Xhafa (b. 1970, Kosovo) is a New York-based artist. In his sculptures, drawings, performances, and photos, he investigates the social, economic, and political realities connected with the different issues of modern society, such as, for example, the phenomenon of tourism or forced illegality.

JR (b. 1983, France) is a photographer and street artist or, as he calls himself, a photograffeur (“photographer” and “graffeur”, French for “graffiti artist”). Combining art and action, JR flyposts the large black-and-white photo images of his artworks in public locations and explores such subjects as commitment, freedom, identity, and limits.

Daniel Buren (b. 1938, France) is a famous artist living in Paris. Being one of those who belong to the Conceptual Art movement, he reflects on the nature of art and examines how art, museums, and audiences relate to each other. Through his in situ installations, he draws attention to often unnoticed political, economic, and ideological characteristics of a specific site.

Moataz Nasr (b. 1961, Egypt) is an artist and cultural activist based in Cairo, whose oeuvre consists of paintings, sculptures, video works, and installations. In his work inspired by his childhood memories, frustrations, and the society surrounding him, Nasr shows complex cultural processes that are underway in the Islamic world. To belong to a specific geopolitical and cultural context and to maintain a link with his homeland are key elements of Nasr’s life and work.

The From the Ground Up show will run through 10 September 2023. To learn more, please visit its official web page.

You may also be interested in visiting Timur Akhmedov’s Kaleidoscope at Andakulova Gallery.