- By Sophie Arni
Sara Ghareeb is a young artist originally from Abu Dhabi, working with sculptures and installations. Made of materials she describes as 'taken from daily life', her installations explore issues of settlement - an interesting topic to be explored by a young woman, regardless of origin. Graduated from Zayed University (Abu Dhabi) in 2015, I encountered some pictures of her work at their final graduate exhibition held at Manarat al-Saadiyat in Spring 2015. A multitude of small white and silvery paper-cut tents succombing to their gravitional pull - I was intrigued. The way these intricate paper-cuts are placed on a white wall is striking. It reminds me of Derrida's concept of parergon too. The small tents are the ornamention, the parerga decorating the core concept of evolutions, of journeys. An Emirati artist focusing on issues of her country's Bedouin heritage. This were my thoughts coming in the interview, on a sunny day at NYU Abu Dhabi's campus on Saadiyat Island. I wasn't completely wrong in my interpretation, but my conversation with Sara turned to be quite revealing. Sophie Arni: Thank you for coming all the way to this campus. So, I've prepared some questions. Actually, can you just begin by telling me the concept behind Impressing Transition, the falling tents installation? Sara Ghareeb: This installation is a journey of becoming who I am today. The silver train symbolizes my youth, my teenage years which were focused on mirroring myself to what I was supposed to be. It was an inward process of self-identification, shiny objects reflecting themselves. And then, I developed a white train. Solid, white objects make a stronger and more stable flow. Grounding myself in my homes was the second phase of development. I transformed the silver surfaces into stable white walls.
S.A.: I like the concept of finally coming back home after a long evolution. I thought these cut-outs shapes look like tents, or huts. Is there a connection with Bedouin nomadic culture?
Sara Ghareeb: Here. This is for you. [Out of pure generosity, she pulls out of her bag one of her cutouts.] I like how you call them huts. You are right, these paper tents are about settlement. I spent my life moving, 'settling' around the UAE. I am originally from Abu Dhabi but lived in Ras-al-Khaimah and later in Dubai. I moved back to Abu Dhabi for my university. In total, I lived in three different cities, changing houses and apartments. This repetitive change of environment forced me adapt myself to new homes. When I say that I found peace at home, I mean I found peace with the chaos of moving. S.A.: At the end, I think creation is one of the best way to find peace with displacements. I can see how these shapes represent a home, the triangular shapes are quite protective . And what about the technique? It seems like you folded each paper. Sara Ghareeb: I first did everything by hand. I knew I wanted to use everyday materials, materials that I can easily work with but transform completely. My choice went with paper. Throughout my university years, I was quite inspired by Tara Donovan's works. The 3D effect came from seeing her work. How she plays with light is fantastic. I also made a parrot out of paper, inspired by Frida Kahlo's paintings. Transforming a flat material such as paper into an object to look at is challenging but I really like the effect.
For Impressing Transition, I cut and glue each piece of cardboard together. The most pain staking process was cutting the small triangular patterns. Then one day, my university advisor looked at me and asked, why don't you try doing with laser cut? I didn't have experience working with the machine but professors taught me how to use it, and the process was much better. I could do more pieces. This is how the final installation came to be. I used triangles to construct the models for each piece. They are formed by four or six inverted triangles depending on how you look at it. Why triangles? I was striving for a balanced form, one that was pleasing to the eye for its symmetry. And these triangular patterns.. you can call them Islamic Art-influenced, right? S.A.: Yes, triangles are often found on many Islamic art and architecture motifs. Definitely. I also see a mash'rabiya reference with the play of light. These perforated triangles make for some fantastic pattern-shading. Sara Ghareeb: Yes, the mash'rabiya effect! Ultimately, I act as an artist from the UAE and I want to celebrate my culture's artistic heritage.
S.A.: And do you have any plans for the future? Are you going to continue making art? I dearly hope so. Sara Ghareeb: Well thank you. Yes, I plan to continue. At the moment, I have been asked to take part in opening a warehouse for artists in downtown Abu Dhabi: Zawiyah Gallery. It will help young artists to produce their artworks and exhibit them in different settings. The local art scene here is still at a young stage, so it's important to nurture the Emirati artists we do have.
Sara Ghareeb graduated with a B.A. in Visual Arts from Zayed University in 2015. She has been exhibited in a group show in Manarat al-Saadiyat with other Zayed graduates in spring 2015. She is involved in the opening of a contemporary art gallery in the heart of Abu Dhabi, Zawiyah Gallery scheduled to open in November 2015.