Lebanese publisher launches book project of Arab art created during lockdown

Wed, 2020-06-03 15:51

DUBAI: While most artists will say that creating art in
isolation is their natural state, the months of lockdown due to the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic have for many conjured up
feelings of restlessness and unease.

“An artist’s mission in the first place is to tell history
— their side of history and what they are living every day,”
artist and political cartoonist Khalid Albaih, who is based in the
Danish capital Copenhagen, told Arab News.

But how does an artist document history while confined to their
home?

As the world begins to reopen after months of closure, artwork
created by more than 50 Middle Eastern artists will serve as a
testament to the power of creativity, as part of the “Cities
Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project.”

“Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project” was launched by
Beirut-based artist and founder of Dongola Books Abed Al-Kadiri.
(Supplied)

The initiative was launched by Beirut-based artist and founder
of Dongola Books Abed Al-Kadiri.

The scope of the project was not only to create works of art
during varying states of lockdown, but to channel challenging
feelings of anxiety into creativity.

The project involved the creation of more than 50 hand-made and
hand-stitched books, produced in-house at Dongola and designed with
each individual artist in mind by Reza Abedini.

Each book had the name of the artist it was sent to on its front
cover and was distributed accordingly to Middle Eastern artists
around the world working in isolation.

Some of the Middle East’s most prominent emerging and established
artists globally participated in the initiative. (Supplied)

Some of the Middle East’s most prominent emerging and
established artists globally participated in the initiative. They
included Beirut-based artists Serwan Baran, Reza Abedini, Abed
Al-Kadiri, Dalia Baassiri, Gilbert Hage, Hiba Kalache, Majd Abdel
Hamid, Shawki Youssef, and Mona Saudi.

Albaih said: “I took part in this project because I thought it
was a great project through which to document the times we are
living. I am trying to document how I feel and how the surroundings
look to me at a time when it is hard to produce and when there is
little to nowhere that is active right now. Artists produce during
good times and times of hardship.”

Portrait of Abed Al-Kadiri. (Supplied)

Dongola continues to believe in the power of artists’ books to
harness change and as a unique form of expression that captures and
responds to the spirit of the times.

“I began to question what our collective spaces could offer us
as we stay apart together,” said Al-Kadiri, an artist known for
his large-scale abstract paintings covering social issues around
the Middle East.

“What could I, not just as an artist, but as a believer in the
power of artistic connection, encourage through my peers? Art has
always been exceptionally responsive to the world around us.
Through it, we capture the personal, social, political, and
environmental issues that we struggle to make sense of.

The project involved the creation of more than 50 hand-made and
hand-stitched books. (Supplied)

“These books are an invitation to join me in thinking along
the same lines, through a practice I have dedicated myself to for
the past few years. I believe in the relevance of the artist’s
book today, now more than ever,” he added.

Al-Kadiri pointed out that the initiative was also on a mission
to put art outside of gallery walls. He was particularly inspired
by American artist John Baldessari’s book “Ingres and Other
Parables.” In it, Baldessari writes that “it’s difficult to
put a painting in the mailbox.”

However, Baldessari, who died in January this year, had a desire
to create hand-held artwork to be viewed away from galleries —
something Al-Kadiri also aims to promote in the age of
COVID-19.

Dongola continues to believe in the power of artists’ books to
harness change and as a unique form of expression that captures and
responds to the spirit of the times. (Supplied)

Much of the power of The Mailbox Project lies in the diversity
of the artists taking part, working in different countries
throughout the world and in different artistic mediums. They were
given no artistic parameters. They were only asked to create.

“This will be a great historic witness to the times we are
living,” added Albaih.

Al-Kadiri hopes to culminate the project in the future with a
compilation of completed works from the artists’ books to then be
published as a limited-edition book by Dongola. “We also hope to
stage an exhibition of the works in the future.”

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News
Lebanese publisher launches book project of Arab art created
during lockdown