Friday, 4 January 2008
Contemporary Art in Bahrain
Dr. Ahmad Baqer
Kamal Abdulla Ali
The last time I've been to an art exhibition in Bahrain was 5 years ago; it was a student exhibition when I was at school. I didn't have the enthusiasm and interest about art back then and I guess that's why I never admired Bahraini artists other than Abdulla Al-Muharaqi, a famous Bahraini cartoonist who is also a painter. However I've just been to the 34th Annual Fine Arts Exhibition in Bahrain Museum which opened at 26 December 2007. And I have to say I am really impressed. The exhibition opened my eyes to the great talent in Bahraini artists and the incredible potential of art and culture in Bahrain.
You might notice that there is something common in all 3 pictures I posted. There was a huge variety in the subjects and styles of paintings which made the exhibition more interesting. There were human portraits, urban scenery, landscape, calligraphy, sculpture drawn or built in different abstract styles. What caught my attention and really impressed me were those paintings that contained Islamic or Arabic subjects expressed in different abstract styles. Although I do admire realist art and the ability of artists to draw objects to the tiniest detail in outstanding accuracy, I am not very fond of this style because I always sense there is a lack of feeling in the painting. The painting will only touch viewers if the scene is familiar and the genius in those paintings is in selecting the perfect scene rather than the process of drawing. However in expressionism, artists distort reality according to their feelings; drawing technique, brush strokes, medium and many other factors open the gate to interpretation and interaction with any viewer and that's where the beauty in abstract art lies.
After leaving the exhibition it got me thinking of the lack of attention on culture in Bahrain. With the huge wave of residential towers, office buildings, and other recreational and commercial projects under construction; cultural projects like theatres and museums are less than a handful. There were some design proposals in the exhibition that might see the light, the most significant is the Museum of Contemporary Art by Zuha Hadid. But it would be great to finance a great deal of cultural projects in addition to the commercial and tourist attractions to bring back Bahrain as a leading Gulf State.