This week, we continue our series from the Venice Biennale with Maryam Mohammed AlQassimi, an Emirati artist from Sharjah, who spent a month in Venice at the National Pavilion of the UAE as part of the internship programme. AlQassimi was one of many UAE nationals and long term residents of the UAE who each spend one month in Venice acting as custodians of the National Pavilion as well as exploring the city. AlQassimi is a graduate of the Fine Arts University of Sharjah, where she specialised in oil painting and drawings, and in exploring the concept of the subconscious, automatism and the multiverse. Her works are centered around esoteric themes. Here she writes about her favourite pavilion in Venice, the Argentina Pavilion.
The Venice Biennale is massive. There is so much to see that by the time you reach halfway, your mind might be drained from trying to absorb and dissect each artwork as you make your way through the maps, doorways and installations, making sure you don’t miss any of the exhibitions you were recommended to visit from friends and the media.
I find that I need a lot of time to fully appreciate an artwork, and speed walking through all the galleries does not do justice to the artwork. I realised this during my internship at the National Pavilion UAE, the more I stood between the works, the more I noticed something new in them, I realised one-time visitors couldn’t possibly grasp the artworks on display at the biennale, I know I couldn’t.
There is a pavilion I visit every day, and every time I go I feel like I have struck gold. Sometimes art takes time, and nothing proved that to me more than the works of artist Juan Carlos Distéfano at the Argentinian Pavilion. Curated by María Teresa Constantin, the pavilion had an assemblage of 29 human-size sculptures that were lined up beautifully to make up the exhibition La Rebeldía de la Forma (meaning The Uprising of Form). Each sculpture represents an array of deep human experiences and conditions; some were suspended in air and some suspended midway through a fall. The sculptures seemed to have apathetic expressions on their faces. It felt strange to me, it made me lose my breath for a second! I can't talk for the artist, or for the meaning of the artworks in that pavilion, but what I understood is that some of these works are representations of stories from Argentina's history. Others are a commentary on the human condition and issues such as violence and social injustice. I know for certain that those pieces really made me feel and not think. I did not even need to know the specifics, because the artworks spoke for themselves. I felt the human condition; I felt the experiences that the artist tried to convey. I didn't need an explanation. Everyone around me that walked into the exhibition had a hand on their chest and their eyes glared or focusing on just one piece at a time. There was a lot of them, and when you stare at just one work you feel overwhelmed because you know there are more all around you and you won't even have the energy to take them all in and fully appreciate them. The artist made these works with so much soul that it is hard to think of words to describe them. Here's a selection of photos from the exhibition for you to see.
* Maryam AlQassimi recently became Managing Director of Marya Arts Agency in the UK, and continues her studio practice of painting as well as miniature drawings with esoteric themes. Keep up with her on Instagram on @veniceinterns as well as on her personal account: @maryaalq and on hashtags #veniceinterns and @uaeinvenice.