Taking down the “tyranny of context”: Jameel Prize 3 nominations – picture feast

The Jameel Prize 3 announces its location-blind shortlist, tapping a growing trend for grouping artists by practice rather than place.

The Third Jameel Prize, a biennial award for artists and designers inspired by Islamic tradition, has announced ten shortlisted nominees for the 2013 prize. Defined not by notions of national identity but by practice, the award nods to a turning of the tide against the “tyranny of context”.

Waqas Kahn, 'Forming Spaces III', 2012. Archival red ink on white wasli paper. 21.3 cm x 21.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and the Sabrina Armani Art Gallery.

Waqas Kahn, ‘Forming Spaces III’, 2012, archival red ink on white wasli paper, 21.3 cm x 21.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and the Sabrina Armani Art Gallery.

When London’s Victoria and Albert Museum started collecting Islamic art in the 1850s, the institution broke ground in doing so, notes Wallpaper* journalist Jessica Klingelfuss. Since those heady days of Victorian collecting fever, the world has changed and the V&A has kept apace, “promoting – and also rethinking – traditional Islamic art in a contemporary framework, most notably with the conception of its biennial Jameel Prize.”

Inaugurated in 2009, the GBP 25,000 Jameel Prize aims to showcase the work of artists and designers inspired by Islamic traditions of art and design. Now in its third year, the 2013 edition received around 270 nominations from countries as disparate as Algeria, Norway, Brazil and Pakistan. The ten shortlisted artists will mount works in an exhibition at the V&A from 11 December 2013 to 21 April 2014; the overall winner will be announced on the 10 December 2013.

Pascal Zoghbi, 'Arabic Letter Ha'', 2012, Image courtesy the artist and Jameel Prize 3.

Pascal Zoghbi, ‘Arabic Letter Ha’, 2012, Image courtesy the artist and Jameel Prize 3.

Jameel Prize 2013 artists:

 

Nasser Al Salem, 'Kul', 2012. Hand painted on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist and Athr Gallery.

Nasser Al Salem, ‘Kul’, 2012, hand painted on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist and Athr Gallery.

Nada Debs, 'Concrete Poetry on Concrete Carpet', 2010. Concrete and mother of pearl with stainless steel beads, detail of the installation. Photo by Marino Solokhov. Image courtesy Mathaf.

Nada Debs, ‘Concrete Poetry on Concrete Carpet’, 2010, concrete and mother of pearl with stainless steel beads, detail of the installation. Photo by Marino Solokhov. Image courtesy Mathaf.

Laurent Mareschal, 'Beiti,' 2011. pices (turmeric, sumac, zaatar, ginger and white pepper), detail of the installation. Photo by Tami Notsani. Image courtesy  the artist and Galerie Marie Cini,

Laurent Mareschal, ‘Beiti,’ 2011, spices (turmeric, sumac, zaatar, ginger and white pepper), detail of the installation. Photo by Tami Notsani. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Marie Cini,

Ties that bind

Works in the shortlist range from Arabic typography and calligraphy to video installation and traditional miniature drawings. The organisers’ only stipulation is that the source of inspiration must be discernibly Islamic. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, 2013 award judge and founding director of the Khatt Foundation, acknowledged the diversity of the nominees in a press release:

The shortlist features diverse and strong contemporary design work. We selected work that could set a trend in advancing new ways of interpreting Islamic art in a contemporary context as well as its relevance to society and its impact on generations to come. The experimental use of material and techniques, the clarity of message, the simplicity and purity of form, the precision of craft, and the social implications, were all taken into consideration.

Faig Ahmed, 'Hollow', 2011. Woollen handmade carpet. Photo by Fakhriyya Mammedova. Image courtesy Yay! Gallery.

Faig Ahmed, ‘Hollow’, 2011, woollen handmade carpet. Photo by Fakhriyya Mammedova. Image courtesy Yay! Gallery.

Desire, doubt, desecration… and carpet-weaving

Nominees include Lahore-based Waqas Khan, who trained in miniature painting but experiments between the media of printmaking and miniature painting, and Faig Ahmed, part of a new wave of contemporary artists in Azerbaijan, who burlesques the iconography of traditional carpet weaving through his thread installations. Mounir Fatmi, who works between Paris and Tangier, is nominated for his mixed media work that, according to the Jameel Prize press release, “appeals directly to the viewers’ doubts, fears and desires” by contemplating matters such as desecration, deconstruction and the end of dogmas and ideologies.

Waqas Kahn, 'Forming Spaces IV', 2012. Archival white ink on black wasli paper. 25 cm x 19 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sabrina Armani Art Gallery.

Waqas Kahn, ‘Forming Spaces IV’, 2012, archival white ink on black wasli paper. 25 cm x 19 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sabrina Armani Art Gallery.

The Jameel Prize, in its eschewing of location-specific restrictions, is keeping step with fellow UK institutions such as the Tate Modern, which, notes The Financial Times, is leading a gradual shift away from the display of work along geographical lines. “All art and artists come from a place [but] no artist wants to be circumscribed by one label or can be,” says Tate Modern head of exhibitions Achim Borchardt-Hume to the newspaper.

The tyranny of context

The attitudinal recalibration among some arts practitioners is welcomed by critics such as curator and writer Aveek Sen, notes The Financial Times. Sen has criticised the curatorial misperception that western canonical art works are universal, whereas Asian art requires “an informed understanding of the contexts in which it is produced”. This misperception Sen terms “the tyranny of context”.

Rahul Jain, 'The Birds of Paradise', 2008. Drawloom-woven silk and silver gilt thread. Photo by Ashok DIlwal. Image courtesy Lekha and Ranjan Poddar collection, New Delhi.

Rahul Jain, ‘The Birds of Paradise’, 2008, drawloom-woven silk and silver gilt thread. Photo by Ashok DIlwal. Image courtesy Lekha and Ranjan Poddar collection, New Delhi.

Mounir Fatmi, 'Modern Times: A History of the Machine', 2010-2012. Courtesy of the artist and Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica.

Mounir Fatmi, ‘Modern Times: A History of the Machine’, 2010-2012, video. Image courtesy of the artist and Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica.

Cassandra Naji

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Related Topics: Awards ceremonies, museum shows, picture feasts, prizes, crossover art, Islamic Art

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