'Images' does not glisten with the bright plastic heaps that the artist has become known for. Instead, we see reams of paper, air-rusted iron shapes and pages torn from a dictionary that scuttle up the walls or hang from the ceiling. The viewer is invited to explore a cave-like wall of papier-mâche encrusted toys, a crystalline stalactite of inkjet printouts, and a piece of elasticated cotton on canvas that begs an inquisitive hand.
If Sharif’s assemblages from the ‘80s onwards were a response to globalised consumerism, handing the unwanted surplus of mass production back to society as art, in Images he turns on the sheer abundance of imagery – printed graphics, reproducible photographs, garish cartoon characters – that surrounds us.
Glossy magazines are churned out month-to-month, low resolution photographs can be printed and reprinted, streams of leaflets and brochures circulate that are designed to seduce us into the marketplace. Such a seemingly endless repetition of imagery fascinates Sharif. He addresses this deluge with his own acts of over-ornamentation and repetition, whereby images are stripped of their inscribed meaning and turned into raw material to be stitched together, reconfigured and reclaimed as colour, line and shape.
Hassan Sharif, Images No. 2, 2014, paper and glue, variable dimensions / Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Hassan Sharif, Dictionary, 2015, dictionary and cotton rope, approx. 380 x 190 x 80 cm / Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Hassan Sharif, Bakh Bakh, 1985 (reconstituted 2015), acrylic and fabric on canvas, 90 x 90 cm / Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Alongside this body of new work is a selection of Sharif’s cartoons, first published in the UAE’s magazines and newspapers in the 1970s and exhibited for the first time here.
At a time of pronounced international interest around Sharif and his role in provoking conceptual art in the Gulf, 'Images' is a discourse on desire, ubiquity and how repetition can become a transgressive act in itself. It is a show that reflects the artist’s insatiable appetite for all that convention deems unappealing, and his insistence that art begins from guilty pleasures.