Art by Moriam Grillo

Spring is in the air. Or so they say. At a time when we can easily experience a range of seasons in one day, it’s easy to remain sceptical about the prospect of consistently good weather. That said, it’s the time of year when social activities spring to life after a slow, almost dormant winter. And almost as if to mirror the appearance of flora and fauna, this is the time of year when the art world has its biggest outing.  The Venice Biennale in Italy, in Dubai, the Berlin and the Liverpool Biennial are just a few which offer a showcase for international artists.

In The Spotlight

“Art is a never-ending search; an assimilation of past experiences combined with new experiences, in the form, the content, the material, the technique, the means.” – Bruno Munari, artist

If you are looking for ingenuity and innovation look no further. Contemporary art has been known to push the boundaries of perceptions but this is usually conveyed through materials used as opposed to techniques. Omar Hassan had not allowed this to deter him; he has boldly gone where only one other man to my recollection has gone before.  A native of Italy, Hassan’s first bout of creative expression was as a graffiti artist leaving his mark on the walls in his local city. A keen amateur boxer, Hassan was forced to hang up his gloves after being diagnosed with diabetes. This didn’t stop him from boxing; instead, it forced him to be more creative. You may have guessed by now that Hassan’s artwork is influenced by his past experiences. Like most artists, his life informs his work. The difference with Hassan is his use of tools to create his artistic compositions, his boxing gloves.

His most popular series of work is entitled ‘Breaking Through’ paintings and involves Hassan dipping his boxing gloves into an array of colourful paints before punching onto large white canvases, in a very physical display of strength, anger and cathartic energy.  Through this ‘performance’, he celebrates the concept of boxing and introduces a new pictorial gesture that is both spontaneous and impactful. As is his other form of mark making, that of a multitude of sprayed dots that allude to the pixelated expression of moments.
“I also sense in Omar Hassan’s gesture a way of asserting the dignity of Islamic art, which draws its origins from the aniconic mentality of nomadic desert tribes, the first to receive the message of the Prophet. In fact, it is not by chance that in previous works the artist pieced together a dialogue between abstract and calligraphic forms.” – Ivan Quaroni, the curator. Hassan was invited to exhibit his work at the Venice Biennale 2011.

Looking forward

The Sikka Art Fair is an initiative by Dubai Culture to showcase the work of artists resident in the United Arab Emirates and six other countries known as the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The event presents the work of 45 artists chosen from over 200 applicants. Among the creatives are Bayo Hassan Bello, a Nigerian entrepreneur and co-founder of the Ajala project, an initiative which uses the Arts to raise awareness of social causes, Fatma Almohsen, a fine artist who uses a mixture of traditional and contemporary materials in her abstract paintings and documentary photographer Reem Saeed who followed in her father’s footsteps- recording the passage of time for posterity – through her artistic endeavour in photography. Mark making is the principle expression of fine artist Eman Al Hashemi working with print on a range of materials including ceramics, glass and paper. Representing a fraction of the talent in the region they are a reflection of the diverse creative approaches on display during the event. Sikka may be positioned in the old city of Dubai but the work on show will represent high quality, innovative artworks and installations including sound and digital media.

The Place to Be

SIKKA Art Fair
Al Fahidi Historical District
17-26 March 2018

The Sikka Art Fair is a small part of the citywide Dubai Art Season which runs throughout March and April. There are hundreds of initiatives including the Middle East Film & Comic Convention. The season culminates with Dubai’s International Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition. For more details visit




In the Pictures

Photography Ahqib Hussain

Ahqib Hussain is a photographer based in Luton whose photographs convey positive images of the town and its people in order to counter opposing perceptions often seen in the national press.

A selection of his portraits can be found on his Facebook page entitled Lutonians.


So long a letter – Mariama Bah

Written forty years ago, the debut novel of Senegalese author Mariama Bah touches on many pertinent issues in society today. The treatment of women, feminism and decolonisation. Described as a semi-auto and epistolary novel ‘So Long A letter’ charts the journey of a woman challenged by life changes that are personal, relational and societal. The story is told in the format of a letter from the main character, Ramatoulaye, to her best friend, Aissatou. The novel gave voice to marginalised narratives and was met with positive responses as well as international acclaim. A perfect read to commemorate International Women’s Day.


Moriam Grillo

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