Arabicity: Such A Near East

Bluecoat Arts Centre, School Lane
3rd July - 5th September 2010

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan

It would be an understatement to say that there is a lot packed into the Bluecoat's latest show. And not just in sheer volume; Arabicity is packed with a myriad of styles and influences.

From the broad mark of middle eastern art, the assembled pieces cover the traditional, the modern and the almost unclassifiable. Chief amongst these is the modern art installation Destination X, one of the many excellent multi media pieces by Ayman Baalbaki, which is a constantly revolving car piled high with a myriad of household items including an old television displaying static, a fan, various bedding and much more symbolizing the movement of people in the Middle East.

It's the most obviously attention-grabbing piece of the show, but that shouldn't distract you from the rest of Arabicity's considerable lineup. Chief amongst these is the mammoth collection of pieces by Chant Avedissian collectively known as ‘Icons of the Nile’. The one hundred and eighteen pieces each show an icon in acrylic, as a way of preserving their memory and to look at the collection all at once is an impressive experience. Even if you don't know who they are, you can sense the affection in the deceptively simple compositions and the evocative colors Avedissian uses.

There is plenty more to see as well, including the video installation ‘Vacuum’ by Raeda Saadeh in the film room based on the story of Sisyphus and the effective ‘La Divisione’, hidden away in the top gallery on its own expansive wall.

If you like your exhibitions varied and thought-provoking, Arabicity is a good example. The range of work is impressive and well worth a long visit should you have the time. If time is an issue, then still pay a visit as this really is an impressive collection of works from a fascinating culture. Highly recommended!

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