The new exhibition at Galleria Continua, In The Heat, is a thoughtful way to launch the art season. Located in Burj Al Arab, the gallery’s second group show is part of a series inspired by the ethos of the hotel's lavish interior designs.
The four elements — earth, air, fire and water — were a source of inspiration for the landmark's visual aesthetics inside, developed by Khuan Chew of KCA International. In The Heat is an extension of the element of fire, following the previous group show, New Wave, which played on the theme of water.
“We really wanted to create an exhibition which represents the diversity of our programme, the gallery programme and revolving around the idea of fire,” Salome Zelic, director of Galleria Continua in Dubai, tells The National.
“We selected artists that were discussing and reflecting on this idea of fire, either in the image that they were creating, or on the materiality of the work that they were constructing.”
Found on the first floor, Galleria Continua is a stark white space with a striking view of Jumeirah Beach from an 8.5-metre-long window. The view, and the light, both play roles in the composition of the gallery and how and where art pieces are placed in the space.
The theme of fire and heat is explored by 11 artists in various ways. From intimate drawings and photographs, to bronze and marble sculptures, and large scale paintings and images, the theme is extensively explored from environmental, geopolitical, mythological and spiritual perspectives.
Drawing the audience in with an almost physical command, is Ahmed Mater’s Lightning Land (2017). The large-scale photograph from the Saudi multidisciplinary artist depicts lightning striking the ground. A traditional tent is silhouetted against the lightning’s blaze as a factory sits on the horizon — stationary, almost looming, a faint light shining out of one of its towers.
Across the gallery, set up against the vast window, are the ceramic works of Italian artistic duo Ornaghi and Prestinari. Titled Ritrovarsi (2022), the two vases are made of ceramics and gold enamelled ceramics. The vases were broken and glued back together, their cracks bare; their sharp, textured edges a contrast to the smooth ceramic surface and refined gold sheen.
Similar to the ethos of the century-old Japanese tradition of kintsugi, or “gold repair,” the pieces are repaired with their “flaws” becoming part of the history and the aesthetic of the object.
Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr’s impeccable piece Arabesque (2021) hangs in front of Ornaghi and Prestinari’s works.
Inspired by ornamental Islamic motifs, Nasr composes thousands of coloured matchsticks to create elaborate and mesmerising designs. Whether closely inspected or viewed from a distance, the piece feels delicate and dangerous.
Nasr references historical traditions associated with Islamic architecture and design, using geometric forms and linking them, through his use of material, to contemporary narratives. Matchsticks suggest unity through the coexistence of the multiple, while also showcasing the fragility of the singular and its potential for mass destruction.
“The idea with this group exhibition was to introduce our audiences to the diverse list of artists that we're working with,” said Aleksei Afanasiev, manager of Galleria Continua. “We have emerging talent, we have well-established artists, and artists from different regions too.”
Galleria Continua has had a strong presence in the region even before it officially opened in November last year. The contemporary gallery, which opened its first space in Tuscany, Italy, in 1990, started engaging with the region by participating in Art Dubai in 2008, then in Abu Dhabi Art in 2012 and has been exhibiting in both art fairs annually.
Since then, its collection of regional artists has grown exponentially. In The Heat is a concise and engrossing way to experience how works from different parts of the world, with varying references and materials, can be placed in parallel and direct dialogues.
While Armando Testa’s Nocero Umbro used to create bronze sculptures, Zhanna Kadyrova's large-scale photograph Experiments explores the ideas of destruction through her use of acid to burn and mark the image of a Kyiv skyline.
Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine’s work Charcoal Mask, meanwhile, is a large, overpowering piece created from black charcoal, inspired by traditional patterns of West African tapestries. Elsewhere, two intimate photographic pieces ces Deseos y Ley by Giovanni Ozzola, delicately document the many forms of light during sunsets and sunrise.
The clever curation of the exhibition takes into consideration the diversity of scale, style, and mediums, allowing each of the artworks to exist in their own space while providing a discourse in unison with the other pieces.
In The Heat is on show at Galleria Continua, Burj Al Arab, Dubai, until November 5