Sharjah Biennal 11

Installation view

The longest-running art event in the Gulf, the Sharjah Biennial returns this year under the direction of the Sharjah Art Foundation, with guest curator Yuko Hasegawa at the helm of this, its 11th edition.

In Sharjah, Mater will be presenting eight photographic prints derived from his ongoing ‘Desert Of Pharan series, curated by Robert Kluijver. Further works from the series will also be featured in Athr Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2013. These events mark the first major showing of Mater’s work in the Gulf since he joined Athr Gallery’s roster of artists late last year.

‘We are delighted to be representing Ahmed Mater, says Athr Gallery director Maya El Khalil. ‘This is an artist that exudes a creative energy that is unique. His ability to move across media and use the most appropriate for the rendering of any particular truth is fascinating. We are looking forward to working with him.’

In ‘Desert Of Pharan’, Mater, a native of Asir, southwestern region of Saudi Arabia, explores the fundamental shifts and evolution of  Mecca, a symbolic place that is also a functioning, complex 21st century metropolis. Today, this place, resonant with symbolism, spiritual significance and accumulated histories of billions of Muslims over the centuries, is in the throes of comprehensive change. The sheer weight of human numbers annually making Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages have necessitated major redevelopment of the city, an undertaking that would balance between preserving the sanctity and sacred space whilst coping with a living, functioning city with a rich, diverse society. Yet there are further motives and factors at play here too, which Mater’s work addresses - deeply entrenched regional politics, historical allegiances, the decisions to expand and commercialise ancient sites around Mecca, the pressures of contemporary market forces and the overwhelming gradual eradication of the old city.

In his images, Mater relays in arresting form, the sheer scale and dimension of the existing and imminent spaces towards and within the historical site. His photographs recall the epic perspectives of Gursky in their narrative entwining of documentary and abstracted imagery, especially when surveying, with a bird’s-eye viewpoint the breathtaking mass of human movement around the city and environs.

In Sharjah, Mater brings his clear, contemplative visions to the Biennial’s fundamental concept ‘Towards A New Cultural Cartography’. With transformation taking place literally on his doorstep, Mater’s photographs span a gamut of perspectives, reflecting his own personal process - from surveying the city from a helicopter and lofty vantage points, to his own experiences as a pilgrim performing Hajj. From ground level construction of new luxury buildings and condominiums to aerial views across the city’s vast crowds, ‘Desert Of Pharan’ articulates the dynamic, complex state of the city’s shifting identity in the 21st century.

For further information - Sharjah Biennal

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13March 13May 2013|SAF New Art Spaces, Heritage Area, Sharjah, UAE