Experiencing Richard Serra

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HAUNTING: Abdulaziz al-Ajail’s photograph titled “A Pause”. Photos by Shaji


Six local artists use Serra’s installations across Qatar as a source of inspiration  to participate in the Creation Generation Project, writes Anand Holla


American artist and sculptor Richard Serra’s massive steel structures across Qatar can stir up a flood of emotions and interpretations in the viewer. By getting six local artists to create unique pieces of art as a response to what they experience from Serra’s works, the Creation Generation Project gets to the core from where all art begins – inspiration.


On Sunday, the Qatar Museums (QM) opened the touring exhibition, under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the chairperson of QM. The QM initiative, borne out of the concurrent Serra exhibitions in Qatar, picked six local talents to create a piece of art that’s inspired by Serra’s works.


While four photographers – Mohammed al-Dosari, Haya al-Thani, Abdulaziz al-Ajail, and Amira Fareed – shot beautiful black and white images to articulate their interpretation of Serra’s works, cartoonist Abdulaziz Yousef and Khalifa Ghaith al-Kuwari created interesting sculptures. Since art is said to be the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known, it’s fascinating to see how Serra’s large steel structures can serve as the starting point for so many creative stories.


The six artistes’ works are inspired from Serra’s East-West/West-East installation, which consists of four plates that are about 49 feet tall, and was recently unveiled near Zekreet, 60 kilometres outside of Doha. The awe-inspiring standing-plate work spans over a kilometre in length, and crosses the peninsula of the Brouq Nature Reserve, connecting the waters of the Gulf.


As much an influence have been Serra’s curved steel sculptures at his Passage of Time exhibition at Al Riwaq, and his heptagonal sculpture 7 – made of seven steel beams, erected at the Museum of Islamic Art Park, and at 80 feet high is the tallest public art piece in Qatar.


Al-Ajail’s photograph titled “The Man” in 7 explores life’s many twists and turns by capturing a man walking inside the sculpture. “People live their lives based on the decisions they take, regardless of whether they are obliged to do so or not. This image depicts the options of life,” says the note to the picture.


His other photograph titled “A Pause” depicts how tiresome life can be. “It can be overwhelming at many times, therefore the woman is resting, planning, deliberating, and contemplating,” the note says, about a woman in the desert against Serra’s steel walls.


Fareed’s photograph is a blurry, incomprehensible visual of one of Serra’s works. She said, “I wanted to make a different picture; different from what you usually see through the lens of your camera. I used very slow shutter speed to get this image.”


Al-Thani’s photograph titled “Noah’s Ark” is intriguing as well. For this image, Haya combined what she was naturally drawn to, the lights and shadows of Serra’s Passage of Time. “She tried to capture what she experienced rather than what she saw. It reminded her of Noah’s Ark, or what she imagines Noah’s ark would be,” says the note to her image.


Al-Dosari too has achieved a wonderful result by combining the inherent beauty of the desert landscape and the imposing stature of the sculptures. Sword-maker Ghaith’s interesting sculpture is made of several swords stuck to a surface.


Inspired by 7, Yousef’s multi-coloured, two-piece installation that shows two characters sitting inside two plastic sculptures resembling the original, juxtaposes the good and the evil. “It is about what happens inside seven. It’s about a personality’s two different extremes; the good and the bad, the happy and the sad,” he said.


Mohammed Ali Kamal, leader of the project, said, “We are happy to be engaging community members with the Richard Serra exhibitions and giving local creative Qataris the opportunity to be inspired by international artists and thereby come up with innovative ideas.” The exhibition is on at The Pearl Qatar till June 26, and will be on at the W Doha Hotel from July 3 to July 17.


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