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Cultural Crossroads

Gazelli Art House Exhibition Explores Identity and History

By Roxane Zand

K udos to Gazelli Art House, a Dover St art gallery which supports a broad range of international artists and caters to a diverse audience. Taking risks on emerging artists in the crowded space of contemporary art production is no small task. Founded in 2003 in Baku, Gazelli has showcased a variety of artists in its latest group exhibition, reminding us yet again that art transcends boundaries. Iranians Amir Khojasteh and Ghasemi Brothers rub shoulders with Arab sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abudail; Azerbaijanis Farhad Farzaliyev and Orkhan Huseynov provide contrast to Basma Al Sharif. We see commonalities and distinctions, and feel enriched by these juxtapositions. Even the work of Greek artist, Kalliopi Lemos (not in the current show) which has always engaged or charmed with its witticisms or political commentary, brings a novel persepective and a fresh break from the mainstream Western contemporary works we see at Frieze or Basel. The question is not to be stalled by judgements but stimulated by new content.

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Naqsh Collective, Akka Artwork, 2019. Image courtesy of Gazelli Art House, artwork copyright the Naqsh Collective.

Huseynov plays with the application of calligraphy to grid interpretations (though slightly deja vu) to reference folk traditions. In his other works we see pop representations of current themes, in a distinctly local framework. The Ghassemi brothers in contrast, use a 'painterly' technique to convey themes that relate to their native Bandar Anzalli along the Caspian coast. Craft-like, nostalgic representations of Isfahani fabrics by Farhad Farzaliyev are a welcome complement to the works of the Naqsh Collective (the Abudail sisters, shortlisted for the Jameel Art Prize 5) who draw similarly on Palestinian fabric design - but in a wholly different application. They use materials that range from stone and brass to wood, and are inspired by embroideries that are passed from generation to generation. Meanwhile Al Sharif's experiences of events on the Gaza strip led her to produce a film (Ouroboros) around the concept of 'eternal return', looking at life as a cycle of recurrences.

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Naqsh Collective, Akka Artwork (detail), 2019. Image courtesy of Gazelli Art House, artwork copyright the Naqsh Collective.

As diverse as they are, these works all refer to notions of historical identities, and 'bahith' - a series of shows that will address issues in countries undergoing significant socio-political and economic change.

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