Artists explore the role of textiles in the fabric of domestic life in Dubai exhibit

The five exhibiting artists take textile as a starting point and question the intimacy of everyday life through their widely varying works.

Artworks on display as part of Domestic Affairs. Courtesy Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
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In the centre of Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde this summer is Comforter. It is a piece of evocative textile art that resembles a flying carpet but is, in fact, a floating quilt.

The artist responsible is Aisha Khalid. Her works manage to be simultaneously delicate and aggressive, and often use textile to discuss and debate an aspect of femininity. This particular work is inspired by the comforters or quilts that are often given as gifts to a new bride in her native Pakistan. It is stitched together using a needle and thread – the meaning behind the laborious process is that while marriage is comforting and beautiful, often it can also be threatening and painful.

The material and message make it a fitting central point for the gallery's group show Domestic Affairs. The five exhibiting artists take textile as a starting point and question the intimacy of everyday life through their widely varying works.

Emirati artist Khalid Al Banna’s dense, circular works are constructed from collaged fabric, which is tightly packed within the frame he has imposed upon it. These are swirling, brightly coloured and deeply attractive works. The fabrics used are pieces collected from old souqs in Sharjah and Dubai.

Each piece tells its own story – be it from India, Pakistan, Iran or elsewhere the Arab world – but together they form part of the Emirati culture, which is itself a cultural melange of all these different influences. They also represent the traditional clothes of Emirati women in the pre-oil era, which were often colourful and vibrant, something often forgotten in the contemporary perception of abaya-clad Emirati woman.

The gigantic works of Iranian artist Zahra Imani seem to dominate the whole exhibition. Several metres in height and length, they depict scenes of everyday life in Iran, but made them totally from different textiles.

"They show traditional Iranian customs, which have often been forgotten," Imani says, pointing to a piece called Raqs, Moorcheh-Dareh (Dance, Got Ants) that features a female dancer performing with male musicians who have been blindfolded to protect the modesty of the woman.

They are also ironic and humorous – a boy lifts up a woman’s skirt in a museum and a sheep appears in the middle of a ­gallery.

Satire is a large part of the work of Sara Rahmanian, sister of Hesam Rahmanian, one of three artists whose work is on show at the Liverpool Biennial (see above). She is showing for the first time with the gallery. Her paintings explore the relationships between people, including mother and child, as well as the physicality of the body.

The final artist in the show is Nargess Hashemi, another Iranian, who has exhibited several times in the gallery with meticulous, geometric pieces drawn on graph paper with ink pen.

However, the images on show in this exhibition are much more expressive, and investigate the body and gestures made inside the home. They are from a series called Wrap Me Up in You, which reveals personal parts of the ­routines of Hashemi's family in Tehran. "By looking at these activities, I am searching for ordinary moments in life and by using layered drawing technique in my work, I hold these different aspects of everyday life together," she says.

Domestic Affairs runs until September 8 at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai. For more information, visit