As designers embrace nature-inspired coral as the Pantone colour of the year and look towards more environmentally sound design practices and purchases, it’s a great time to seek inspiration from artists and curators who are also guided by the power of nature’s beauty and inimitable design prowess.
Opening this weekend at Dubai’s XVA Gallery is the group exhibition, ‘Empathetic Dream Construction’, which includes sculpture, collage and painting by British artist Al Braithwaite, American artist Halona Hilbertz, and German artist Jakob Roepke.
Halona Hilbertz’s sculptures are made from found objects, both natural and man-made. They are about empathy, ‘Humans’ empathy toward other humans, but also humans’ empathy toward life forms that are different from us. Empathy lays bare the connection between creatures (and can even do so between breathing creatures and inanimate objects). In this all-encompassing connection I find Nature, and I find Spirituality; I see Life Itself. Others might call this greater overarching entity God.’
Hilbertz awareness of our threatened planet and our need to protect it is ever present within her work. Mankind’s impact on nature and our relationship with it is illustrated in her creature like sculpture: insects and fungi with human faces facilitate a dialogue between the two. She describes the awe-inspiring effect nature has on humans, and our constant quest to understand it. This parallel can be seen in the faces of the viewers, searching for meaning in the constructed shapes, trying to understand the thought processes of the artist, and her intended message.
Jakob Roepke’s small scale drawings and collage put man and beast together in surreal and unusual settings, the juxtaposition of creature and environment prompts the viewer once again to question the relationship between man and nature. In Roepke’s narratives a subtle balance between unease and harmony is achieved. The human figures are drawn from 19th century Jiu Jitsu and 1970s yoga handbooks and are seen warding off gigantic animals, wild geometric figures and strange alien forms. Drawing upon art history, popular culture and the surrealist tradition, each piece is left open to a wealth of contextual interpretations. His sculptural work takes you across geometric planes; shadow and light alter the appearance of the piece based on the viewers perspective.
Al Braithwaite’s work is often evocative of the world’s current turmoil. ‘Hearts’ created by imprints from the artist’s hand take the shape of a grenade. The viewer might recognize that heart wrenching feeling one gets in an uncomfortable situation, or when anxious about a future event, or when contemplating the unchangeable past. War, famine, climate change, are ever present at the forefront of the viewers mind. The exhibition runs from 12 January – 5 March 2019. – Joanne Molina