Abu Dhabi Art: Shirazeh Houshiary

Shirazeh Houshiary's church at the St Martin in the Fields
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Shirazeh Houshiary is a London-based Iranian artist who rose to prominence in the 1980s as a sculptor and is perhaps most famous for designing the new church window of the St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London, which was installed in 2008. She visited Abu Dhabi Art to give a talk in the auditorium and here we caught up with her for a quick interview:

Q: Is this your first time in Abu Dhabi?

A: This is my first time here but my second time in the UAE. It is a new discovery for me.

Q: What is your opinion of the art scene here?

A: I think this is a new model that has never happened anywhere else before. Usually there is a group of artists who get together and create a situation and all the other people move in but here you have the reverse. It is a new model that nobody is familiar with, it is an experiment and we don't know what will happen. We will find out in 20 years time.

Q: Is this unique to the region?

A: Well I think it is happening all over the world that people are creating new models and new cities. In the past it all happened organically but here everything is organised and gridded and decided before. It is interesting to see where it will go. I don't want to make a judgement at this stage because I think you can't and human beings have the tendency to reject what they don't know.

Q: Why are you here?

A: I am here to give a talk about my work. I showed one of my early films and a series of my work from over the years. In a way it was an introduction about who I am and my work.

Q: Can you describe your work?

A: The kind of work I do is contemporary and meditative and I think people need time to take it in and enjoy the silence of it.

Q: Your church window is perhaps your most famous work. Can you describe the process?

A: After I won the competition it took two years to complete because I had to get the right team together. Almost everyone was against it because, as I said, it is easy to reject anything new. There was only one priest who was with me and so we continued and eventually got it done. Of course now, everyone loves it but this is the reality of life.

Q: Do you feel defined by it?

A: Well, no I don't want to be that is not be because that is not only what I am about. But that is more visual and it is in a public place where thousands of people see it every day so I think that is why people know me for it. Maybe I can't escape it but I don't mind. I am very proud of the work and the way it turned out.

* The works of Lisson Gallery can be viewed in Hall Two, stand 21.

* Abu Dhabi Art continues today until 10pm and tomorrow from 2pm-10pm at Manarat Al Saadiyat