New art from the Middle East: continued

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Moataz Nasr (Egypt)

Moataz Nasr, contemporary Islamic art
© Moataz Nasr, installation view

Moataz Nasr's paintings, sculpture, installation and video point to "the inability to act and react to what we see", a universal theme approached through specific exploration of the political and social climate of his homeland.

The installation An Ear of Mud, Another of Dough, 2001 (left and below) directly references an Egyptian proverb derived from folk tales featuring Goha, an archetypal 'wise fool' said to have been a court jester in Baghdad.

In one of these stories, Goha deafens himself to the relentless complaints of his wife by stuffing one ear with mud and another with dough.

Moataz Nasr, contemporary Islamic art
Moataz Nasr, installation view

Two thousand ears sculpted in mud and dough line a wall of the installation, and on a video screen, figures shrug their shoulders in a noncommittal gesture. Visitors, however, are unable to block out the intense drone of buzzing flies; a symbolic sign that something, somewhere, is rotten and cannot simply be overlooked.

Goha may have been able to nod in meaningless acquiescence to words he chose not to hear, but Nasr insists that we do not have such an option.


In the video work, Water, (below) a face is reflected in a puddle. A foot stamps on the surface, violently dispersing the image, yet as the water settles a new face appears. The sequence loops, a powerful statement of obliteration and renewal.

Moataz Nasr, contemporary Arabic art
© Moataz Nasr

Rokni Haerizadeh (Iran)

Rokni Haerizadeh, Middle Eastern contemporary art
© Rokni Haerizadeh

Haerizadeh's paintings often meld the urban with the traditional, depicting the culture and rhythms of modern-day Teheran alongside references to folklore and fable such as the Persian Book of Kings or tales by the poet Rumi.

Haerizadeh's fluid, gestural paintwork captures the vibrancy and complex interaction of everyday life: weddings, parties, days at the beach, the bustle of city streets.

His bid to focus on human realities extends to nudity and sexuality, themes that cannot be expressed publicly in Iran. Despite restrictions, however, Haerizadeh is able to "show some of this type of art privately or underground".

Whatever the subject, Haerizadeh's masterly handling of paint is always in evidence. As playful and sweeping as his themes and interests, Haerizadeh is yet another representative of a new era in Islamic - and particularly Iranian - art.

Rokni Haerizadeh contemporary Islamic art

© Rokni Haerizadeh
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