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Carbon 12

Private Gallery
Khaleej Times-
  21 August 2009

The splayed legs of a white, suited figurine — at first glance a breakdancer and at second perhaps a man hopping a fence — extend beyond the natural endpoints of his limbs to join in a long, erratic loop.

This sculpture, one of several by Austrian artist Florian Hafele on display at Carbon 12 in Dubai this summer, appears to have little in common with Iranian artist Omid Massoumi’s paintings of swirled colours, or Farzan Sadjadi’s distorted images of violence that hang in the same room.

This disconnect in Carbon 12’s summer exhibition Seven Positions was intentional, says Kourosh Nouri, the gallery’s owner.

“Usually, doing a group exhibition is very hard. Our decision was to liberate the artists from the pressure of uniting. These are seven personal approaches.”

The exhibition features seven young artists who use different mediums and offer different ideas and perspectives, from playful to political.

Mathias Garnitschnig’s mixed media sculptures appear to be cotton pillows stuffed into and over pipes and glossy plastic pillows in bright colours. Upon closer examination, the cotton pillows are heavily textured plaster and the glossy ones are lacquer and acrylic, something Nouri says conveys a sense of humour not always seen in more established artists.

“There is what your eyes tell you and then you get closer and there’s something a little bizarre,” he says. “[Garnitschnig] creates something ordinary into something very extraordinary. There’s a lot of derision”

Sadjadi, an Iranian, offers up the most blatantly political works in the exhibition. In one of his barely perceptible images made from strokes of rich browns and muted colours is the disturbing depiction of a suicide bomber, after the bomb explodes. In another, titled MIA, he uses bits of light to show a dead soldier behind a rock on slowly sloping ground, giving the impression that the body is just out of view from his comrades.

In the same room, but carefully divided by Hafele’s energetic sculptures, are Massoumi’s paintings, reminiscent of the distorted goings on in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dirty Joke appears to be the artist’s representation of the inner workings of his mind — the visages of two court jesters, fields of flowers and three grayish figures ensconced in swirls resembling the wrinkles and folds of a cerebral cortex. Also featured are Mexican artist Alessa Esteban’s somewhat twisted paintings and drawings. The fine line drawings in sweet pastels, often surrounded with flowers, show kewpie doll lookalike girls dressed in catsuits and looking glum. The girls look unhappy and upset, their girlish figures and features overridden by their vixen-like outfits. Deviating from the depiction of childish girls is the portrayal of an older girl, wearing a turtleneck and long skirt, only a small part of her lower leg showing. Rays of light shine out from behind her, and her finely painted facial features — more adult and realistic than any of the others painted by Esteban — look skyward.

The most interesting part of this painting is the title the author has chosen: Pending from a Deceitful Heart. Elsewhere in the gallery, Philip Mueller’s paintings seem to have a futuristic dystopia quality to them, something like Planet of the Apes meets Brave New World. The massive gorillas partly dressed in renaissance era garb touches on the humanistic quality in the big animals. In another, titled 5:30 AM, images of ribs, oysters, a skull and a face are barely discernable through the haze of Mueller’s favoured cool shades. The muted blues, greens and purples in Mueller’s paintings appear to have dried as they were slowly dripping down the page.

“He has a very grungy approach,” Nouri says. “In this humanisation of these apes, he’s created his own universe. In Urban Break, where the two apes are staring at you, there is sometimes a feeling of ‘I’m being watched.’ But at the same time it’s not a visual aggression. You feel you are being watched more by a human entity than by a beast.” Bernhard Garnicnig’s media art will seem familiar to many computer users. The captured images of colour wheels and spectrums commonly seen in computer design programs are blown up. Spectrum provides the viewer with the benefit of the serene but satisfying transition from cyan to magenta and deep blue, but it may seem that Garnicnig has done little more than enlarge and frame a screen shot.

Nouri compared Garnicnig’s works to that of a photographer. To someone unfamiliar, the work’s creation seems easy, but there is a craft to the creation of an image that truly resonates.

Carbon 12 is open by appointment for the rest of the summer. Call +971 50 464 43 92.
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