Nader Al Abbasi
BY ANAAM IKRAM
Always keeping society as the pinnacle of his art, Nader Al Abbasi’s latest series of art focuses on the years of memories that comprise a society, as they are made and stored away and built upon over time. A year after Perle Magazine initially featured the Bahraini artist, we recently spoke to him about his new series on how society has evolved overtime, with remnants of memories from the older generation passing onto the new one. His art pieces question whether this passage of information unconsciously shapes the memories of the new generation about their past and heritage and do they choose to build upon these social memories or abandon them all together to make new ones for their future generation. Showcasing his work at Al Riwaq Art Space, Nader depicted his perspective through his art.
The self-taught artist’s latest series of work, Social Alzheimer’s, serves almost as a continuation of his previous work at the Al Emara exhibition, in which he explored how members of society would come to the Al Emara landmark, gather materials to build with, and then leave something behind in the process. What was left behind, Nader explains, were the memories and he takes a deeper look at whether or not over time the disintegration of those memories was an intentional act or does it happen naturally as the process repeats itself. He addresses the topic through the 50-piece series that has been divided into 5 subsections. “My thought is that memories, over time, when they accumulate over each other, they create certain tangible and intangible values within a society. I am looking at how the social memory is formed, and how it can be deleted, depleted, erased and that erased memory – is it just a theoretical, romantic idea or is it a really serious issue that can impact the way we deal with each other?” Nader explains the build up of these social memories are eventually what comprise a society’s core values and concepts and questions if these memories are being deleted, does society also delete its core values, identity of an area, and if the identity of the future is being jeopardised.
Looking at various components that have created the culture and heritage of Bahrain over the years, one of Nader’s pieces touched upon the subject of the traditional crafts of Bahrain. “It was the Whatsapp of the time” he says, as before, members of a community would gather and work together and socialise at the same time. Crafts such as weaving, farming, clay making, and even pearling were the traditions that a community was built on, and now, Nader says, nobody mentions them anymore. Nader’s art piece, Nameless, looks at the impact it would have on the identity of an otherwise nameless place by giving it a name. He asks if people become individualistic towards an area because of the name it has and whether or not they would feel different about that area if it were to remain without a name.
Incorporating the foundations of Bahrain’s identity creatively in each of his pieces, Nader’s use of the Delmon Bullhead series represent a moment of memory from the country’s history. The thirteen silk screen-printed pieces, look identical at first glance, but are made with slight variations in each to represent that the majority of the social memory has the same outline and frame, but not everyone has that memory in the same context.
Exploring the various laws that administer a country, Nader used Clause 2 and Clause 10 of the Bahraini Constitution from 2002 through which he addressed religion and commerce. Creating two individual but related 200x300cm pieces, Nader used tar to create Clause 2 to raise the question if whether our religious values would remain the same when a country runs out of the main source of its economy. Using bright gold to paint Clause 10, the artist asked if by placing laws in a country, is it being enriched or being wiped away of its originality due to the regulations.
Memory, Nader says, will always serve up again in one form or another, as it cannot be completely erased whether it is being brought up in the form of restaurants serving traditional food with a modern touch, or a revamped take on traditional garments, as well as in the way people deal with each other. Previously, he says, everybody would work together towards an end goal, whereas now people are more independent, but since history tends to repeat itself, as part of the social memory, that element too might also return one day. Nader says that though social memories are incredibly important, they cannot be sustained throughout six or seven generations due to the changing times and technological advances. It is important, he says, to try and maintain the core values each memory leaves behind in order to ensure a stable society.
Nader’s inspiration for his latest collection stemmed from time spent at a traditional Arab house in Muharraq, with an open courtyard, during a workshop several years ago. Nader says throughout the duration of the workshop, he realised how clearly he could see the clouds from the open space and wondered when was the last time he had witnessed that. Using the clouds as a metaphor for society in his initial paintings, Nader combined the idea with that of the damaging effects Alzheimer’s has on the sufferer. “I saw a program about Alzheimer’s and how fragile a human being can be if he loses his memory. You don’t know your name, you don’t know how to write it, you don’t recognise your wife or your child, and you lose your identity. I thought for humans it is something that can be inherited and it makes them shut down, but what can happen in a society that can shut it down?” he says. He adds societies are not built over a mere sixty years – the average life of a human – they are built over centuries and probed how far back does one have to search to reveal when the current memories of the society started to form.
Beautifully questioning the multiple layers that have built the social memories of Bahrain through his art, Nader says he is not looking for answers to his question, rather wants to engage people in a dialogue and think about what he is presenting. Exploring the aspects of a society that can be easily been taken for granted, Nader hopes his art can encourage people to learn and discover more about their culture and heritage to understand the foundations of their identities clearer.
For more information of Nader Al Abbasi’s Social Alzheimer’s:
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