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February 18 2020


Al Baseera

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“Shade is life, is a sign of movement and existence,” says Hazem Harb. Shadows of the past and the present appear in the conceptual works of Palestinian- Italian artist, Hazem Harb (b. 1980). The emotional content of his historical and sociological subject matter is revealed through meticulously constructed compositions. In his archival works, sculptural images and sculptural installations, Harb questions traumatic experiences that shape societies through war and loss.

In Beyond Memories (2012), he adapts found images, arranges them into collage, and incorporates color fields to invoke the emotional qualities of the subject matter. His TAG Series (2015) frames faces of people to metaphorically rescue them from oblivion. Harb’s works presented in the book and exhibition Common Grounds (2015), and his series Al Baseera (2012), call into question possible modes of perception of his work through multilayered and boundary-based forms.

The large-scale works of Al Baseera reference geometric forms of Islamic origin. Inspired by the Arabic word “bazaar,” which combines the dual meanings of “seeing” and “seeing through something,” Harb questions viewing and perception habits.

This brings him to combine unframed canvases with other canvases of different formats to construct three-dimensional objects. Using the architecture of his sculptural canvases, he then abstracts motifs of Islamic geometry with paint by confronting their basic forms with one another. Boundary lines, and clashing yet harmonious color fields dominate the compositions, with the color black becoming increasingly significant. The contrast between the flattening effect of the black areas and the three-dimensionality of the constructed canvases turn the painting into a “sculptural image.”

Though Harb reveals the works’ concepts directly through his titles, he believes it is the audience who complements the work in the way they perceive it. The sculptural construction, variety of color combinations, and abstraction of geometric forms force the viewer to reconsider his or her personal viewing perspective and behavior. The viewer is suspended in a contemplation of the work; a transcendental state.

Visual artist Hazem Harb was born in Palestine in 1980. Always referring to his own Palestinian identity, takes a research-driven approach, moving beyond the limitations of verbal language and photojournalism to create a physical representation of multifaceted social issues. His collages examine the nuances and problems surrounding shifting borders, displacement and diaspora. Intelligent, philosophical, and visually impactful Harb’s creative process reflects the artist’s commitment to making a real connection with his collective past while resisting its systematic erasure.

The artist works in an underlying register, his works primarily concerned with the historical past of his country and its place in the current day. Harb’s use of collage allows him to construct a discourse that did not previously exist or was at least hidden. The artist imbeds old photographs and archival objects within his works, often rare pieces of the past that he cuts and inserts into conceptual compositions. Both the result and the approach relay a hidden story, the use of genuine historical sources summoning the past to the present - a solution proposed by Harb to reaffirm and reestablish the cultural and physical existence of his people.

Amongst his accolades, Harb has been awarded residency at The Delfina Foundation, London; Cite des Arts, Paris; and Satellite, Dubai. In 2008, he was shortlisted for the A.M Qattan Young Artist of The Year award. His work has been collected by numerous institutions, internationally, including: The British Museum, Sharjah Art Foundation, Centre Pompidou, The Oriental Museum (Durham University), Salsali Private Museum, LACMA, Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen, Al Qattan Foundation, and Contemporary Art Platform: CAP Kuwait.

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