AMMAN — Emad Al Dhaher is known to Jordanian art lovers; he lived, worked and displayed his works in Amman, among other venues, for nine years before leaving for Australia, in 2005.
Now a new set of works is being exhibited at Foresight32 Art Gallery, “a continuation of my previous exhibition…, but with a greater focus on the struggles of migration and being away from my motherland”.
The mythology of his motherland, Iraq, was the inspiration for the works he displayed last time at the same gallery, but now, as the name of the exhibition suggests, it is “years of migration” and exile, “which became part of our lives… and our longing for family, friends and loved ones”.
The feelings for the loved ones is beautifully expressed by embracing couples, graceful silhouettes in blue fibreglass whose outlines are set apart beautifully by the white background.
Yearning is equally poignantly expressed by the bronzes of lonely people sitting on benches, swinging on seesaws, playing musical instruments and passing time in a myriad other pursuits.
An armless woman in a boat — this latter a recurrent image, not surprising for someone who grew up by the Tigris and the Euphrates — is casting a net from her womb (or rib?) (quite symbolic if these are looked at, literally or mythologically, as birth-giving anatomical parts) to catch things she maybe longs for and that are part of her country’s long history: a heart, a lock, a mask, a piece of pottery.
Dhaher’s world is not sad. It may be nostalgic, as it must be for those who leave their motherland, but it is mostly one in which daily activities of normal people are captured and rendered endearingly.
Girls skip rope or play with hoops, people read, play musical instruments, walk the dog, fly a kite, ride horses, embrace and watch the world pass by.
It is a familiar world created by the use of a less familiar medium, bronze or fibreglass, whose artistry is proof of the sculptor’s mastery and a pleasant surprise for the viewer.
Birds, envied by mankind forever for their ability to fly far and wide, are often present in Dhaher’s works. “Flowing” like water from a faucet, only upwards, defying gravity, perched on the broken bars of a cage that now, mockingly, holds a human being prisoner, or, very imaginatively, represented by a cluster of hands in blue fibreglass, the birds seem to be everywhere, symbols of beauty and freedom.
A woman with a hole in her torso is balancing on a seesaw against a heart. The heart, hers probably, is heavier — with love, longing, suffering… one is left to guess — and the outcome, the little bronze sculpture, is haunting.
Love, longing and a well-adjusted life in exile seem to animate Dhaher’s people who show adaptability, resilience, acceptance of a reality that is becoming permanent, to which they are resigned and of which they seem to have decided to make the best.
It is a realistic world with fewer symbols than in previous works. Yet these are not entirely absent.
An ellipsoidal frame, similar to that of a ship sail, holds countless images, explicit or emblematic: snakes, owls, locks, masks, keys, implements, musical instruments, lettering, all around a golden globe — the earth and all it holds on it.
In another work, babies, hands, bags, shoes, pen, pencil-sharpeners, paper, a clock, are protruding from a fibreglass shield, as if trying to break free from some enveloping membrane. All struggle to “emerge”, hinting at birth and emancipation.
Two canvases, in golden ochre and blue, to match the bronze and fibreglass sculptures, seem to hold all the images the artist thinks of and that later become tridimensional figures. They look like huge pages from a sketchbook, the work of a meticulous artist who seems equally at ease drawing and moulding enchanting imagery.
The works are on display until April 20.