It takes a discerning eye to look at the way the sun casts shadows on your balcony and use that as an inspiration for an artwork. But Mohammed Kazem, one of the country’s most-important conceptual artists, is known for using quotidian information and material as part of his creative process.
The Emirati is perhaps best known for Directions, a performative series of works created from records of GPS data and location.
For his latest exhibition, titled Receiving and Collecting, the material he uses is light. He has attempted to capture the intangible subject matter by capturing images of shadows.
Receiving Light is the name of the collection of images that show the angles of shadows cast across Kazem’s balcony and other locations around Dubai.
After printing out the photographs, he has given texture to them by making small scratches over the areas the light touches.
This is reminiscent of Kazem’s previous series, Scratches, in which the marks and indentations on paper attempted to illustrate the sounds the objects make.
Here, it is as if he is trying to show us the symphony of light.
All this is perhaps unsurprising, given Kazem’s training as a musician beforemoving into art. Across the gallery from Receiving Light is the second half of the exhibition, titled Collecting Light.
These are simple images that show the artist’s hands holding a white square of paper onto which shadows are cast in natural environments, including the desert and garden.
Plants, poles, rocks and doors cast the shadows in these frames and the scratches have been made to follow the light’s direction. It is beautiful in its simplicity and you can imagine the artist searching out the best spots to “collect” light and then using paper and camera to capture it.
The gallery has chosen to hang the works without frames – instead they are tacked to the wall so the visitor gets the chance to get up close, which is a huge plus as their magic lies in the details.
In the centre of the space, Kazem’s 2011-12 series, Windows, is also shown in full. It is made up of are 108 pencil drawings of everyday scenes spotted around Dubai. We see labourers at work or taking breaks, rubbish bins, graffiti, traffic, skyscrapers and people going about their business.
All drawn without colour, the images resemble outlines of reality – a window into the world. In the final room, there are some pieces made during the artist’s recent residency in South Korea.
Kazem depicts sound waves in several visual forms, such as with thread stitched through paper, or by dipping a giant roll of paper into ink. For those familiar with his style, it is clear that these pieces are extensions of Kazem’s previous works, but at the same time they blend well with the rest of the show.
With Receiving and Collecting, Kazem only strengthens his pedigree as one of the UAE’s most-important and innovative artists.
• Receiving and Collecting runs until February 23 at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde. www.ivde.net