A Curious Affinity for Blue: In Conversation with Street Artist Myneandyours

Myneandyours is known for stickers, wheat paste, and murals of clouds, all in a recognizable shade of blue. Myne is based in Dubai, but was raised in London with Iraqi roots. He came up listening to punk music, going to gigs, and skateboarding on city streets, all of which led to street art. Now a full time artist with a studio at Tashkeel, an artists’ incubator and community set in Dubai, Myne recently completed a mural in Tunisia as part of the #Djerbahood project, a remarkable initiative organized by Galerie Itinerance, bringing some of the world’s top street artists to paint walls on the tiny Tunisian island of Djerba.

Fly High, Great Eastern St, Shoreditch, London, 2014, Photo Credit Monoprixx

Fly High, Great Eastern St, Shoreditch, London, 2014, Photo Credit Monoprixx

I sat down with Myneandyours at Dubai’s trendy A4 community space to talk street art, mythology, and technique. Here is the conversation that followed:

DL:Mabrook (congratulations!) on your recent trip to Djerba. Tell me about your experience.

MY: We painted in Erriadh, a small town outside the city center. The temperatures were so boiling hot that all the work was done at night. When I was painting I had the owner of the house [who had offered his wall to me], his brother and son bringing me food throughout the night. I painted from 9pm-9am. The owner’s brother and teenage nephew dragged out a mattress, played Umm Kulthum, chain-smoked, and ate pistachios to keep me company the entire time.

DL: You ultimately chose to paint a mural featuring a local Berber woman. Why did this image feel like the right choice?

MY:In the Odyssey, Odysseus stops along his journey back to Troy on an island that is now believed to be Djerba. The island is inhabited by the Lotus Eaters who feed on the fruit from the lotus flower, which makes them sleepy, apathetic, and able to get through the day. I wanted to leave something behind that related to our local hosts so I chose to paint a local Berber woman with a lotus flower.

A trio of public bathroom doors painted during the Djerba Hood Project in Tunisia, 2014

A trio of public bathroom doors painted during the Djerba Hood Project in Tunisia, 2014

The Fruit of the Lotus, Djerba, Tunisia, 2014

The Fruit of the Lotus, Djerba, Tunisia, 2014

DL: Why do you have a curious affinity for blue? It turns up in all your work.

MY: I wanted to create an identity and consistency between my work. I began with the blue cloud, which I incorporate into almost everything I do. I don’t like to sign my work so the blue is in lieu of my name in most cases.

DL: You’re best known for your clouds. When did you draw your first cloud?

MY: About 7 years ago, it started out as a doodle for a friend who wanted to get a tattoo. Then I started putting it up on buildings and making stickers of the cloud, which I’d put up all over London. My mom is so cool that she pastes my stickers all over New York City. The symbol means different things to everyone, but from a scientific perspective, through the cycle of condensation we are all connected to the clouds and the environment.

A screenshot from Myne's laptop demonstrating the technical process he goes through when creating a mural. The final piece appears deceptively simple and spontaneous.

A screenshot from Myne's laptop demonstrating the technical process he goes through when creating a mural. The final piece appears deceptively simple and spontaneous.

DL: That’s the beauty of street art. You’re affecting people without really realizing it and the work takes on a life of its own, long after you’ve left it.

MY: Some pieces I put up just to be provocative. I come back and they’ve been painted over or removed. I find it inspirational that my work caused someone to think and take action.

When I go out at night, I pre-paint 3 meters on paper. I take wheat flour paste, a huge, extendable brush and I climb a building and put the work up. I pre-print because I don’t want to rush or make a mess and if someone doesn’t want it to be there, it’s just paper and anyone can take it down. I like that it’s temporary.

DL: There’s something very Zen about that.

MY: Yeah. It makes it very exciting to come back in a year and see if it’s still there.

Great Eastern St, London, July, 2014, Billboard

Great Eastern St, London, July, 2014, Billboard

DL: I don’t place much importance on labels, but would you call yourself a graffiti artist?

MY: Graffiti is something different from what I do. Those artists are writers who are speaking to one another on the wall. Those guys are amazing but that’s not me. In Dubai I only paint outside legally, I knock on doors and ask permission. I’m searching for a big wall, something dirty and grimy that I can hit here.

DL: You relocated to Dubai last year and became full time artist. What was your previous day job?

MY: Back in London I used to have a day job in an office directing marketing for a certain pizza franchise. I sat in a cubicle. My wife Reem would compare me to Superman. I’d wear a suit and tie by day but at night I’d sneak out with my bucket and paper to scale a building.

DL: Do you sketch your work out beforehand or encounter it for the first time when you’re face to face with a wall?

MY: If you analyze my work on a mathematical level it makes sense. It becomes like an OCD thing—I’m working 6000% on the screen. No one will ever see what I see, but I’m doing it for me because I want to produce something that is perfect. So many artists are more spontaneous and just throw paint on a wall and see what happens. That’s amazing, but I’m not like that.

It will be ok, Sclater St, Shoreditch, London, July, 2014 Photo Credit - Mark Hat.

It will be ok, Sclater St, Shoreditch, London, July, 2014 Photo Credit - Mark Hat.

DL: Let’s talk stickers. Your clouds are all over cities in the UK and Middle East. How did you become a sticker artist?

MY: When I’m out and walking down the street, holding my wife’s hand on the way to a restaurant, my mind is still with Myneandyours, and I am always hiding a sticker in my other hand, looking for right place to attach it.

DL: Does that come from a desire for people to see your work all over the city?

MY: It’s not so much about making people see my work, but about awakening a sense of wonder for our environment. If someone sees the cloud pasted to a building and then again as a sticker on the street signal, she will begin to question how it got there and what it means. It’s not advertising because the cloud isn’t pushing a product or idea and there is no signature or website. I’m hoping to cause people to realize how frequently we’re just pushed into an idea without questioning what is really behind it.

Marylebone, London, 2012

Marylebone, London, 2012

It's all in my head, Putney, South London, 2012

It's all in my head, Putney, South London, 2012

DL: Where did your tag, Myne and Yours originate?

MY: I create the work for me, I put it outside for you. But it’s also about how this life is ours to do with what we want. You don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day if you don’t want to.

DL: Many of your pieces are installed several stories up on a building or billboard. Is it precarious for you to hang the wheat paste so high off the ground?

MY: In London the best time to hit a wall with wheat paste is about 4 in the morning when people are still in bed. I sometimes find myself hanging upside down over a ledge alone. I attach the bucket to a 50-meter rope then climb the rope and pull it up.

For commissioned walls everything is first sketched out using Adobe Illustrator. Then I use an MTN 94 can of spray paint with a combination of stencil work with freehand work to get clean lines. I can enjoy the luxury of putting it up over the course of a full day or two and having someone along to keep me from falling.

Ayda, Qarantina, Beirut, 2011

Ayda, Qarantina, Beirut, 2011

Good Ideas: Connect with Myneandyours here

Images: Courtesy of Myneandyours unless otherwise specified in captions

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

Arabian Wings: Saudi's Art Auction Culture

Arabian Wings pioneered the notion of an art auction in Saudi Arabia, beginning with a historic first event held back in 2011. The move was strategically clever as although there is a growing group of educated collectors in Saudi, they had previously been obliged to travel to Dubai to access opportunities at Christie's Middle East and to a lesser degree at Ayyam Gallery's popular Young Collectors Auctions. Now in its 4th edition, Arabian Wings' next auction will take place in Jeddah on 11 September at The Gallery Art Space located at Al Furusya Yacht Club.

The eclectic catalogue consists of more than 200 works of both modern and contemporary art, with a heavy Saudi bent. The lots vary widely from a photograph by emerging Saudi artist Mohsen Alem estimated $500-$1000 (See Lot 192 below) to original pieces by European masters Picasso and Van Gogh. Read on to eavesdrop on my conversation with Arabian Wings Founder and Auctioneer with Mohammed Bahrawi and to take a peek at my top picks for lots to be auctioned.

Lot 028. Untitled, Omar Nagdi, b. Egypt 1931.  US $29000-34000

Lot 028. Untitled, Omar Nagdi, b. Egypt 1931. US $29000-34000

Q & A with Mohammed Bahrawi, Founder of Arabian Wings

DL: How have you observed that the auctions organized by Arabian Wings are encouraging a culture of art collecting in Saudi Arabia?

MB: When we first launched Arabian Wings, it was about adding to the scene and helping it flourish. The collecting scene in the Kingdom has now become more apparent – we have taken a common practice and brought it to our shores. Yes, there are more people interested in collecting than before and that is what we are aiming to do…

Lot 055: Halal 0%, Mansour Ashmouni, b. Saudi Arabia 1974. US $5000-8000

Lot 055: Halal 0%, Mansour Ashmouni, b. Saudi Arabia 1974. US $5000-8000

DL: This is the 4th auction to take place since 2011. How is this edition different from the others?

MB: With every auction, we feel that Saudi Arabia and the region are more excited about the artwork that is displayed. We have raised the bar each time and this edition we have been lucky to display a Van Gogh and a Picasso. This is an indictor of the caliber of our auctions and how we made our mark.

Lot 073. Al Quds, Nahar Marzooq,  b. Saudi Arabia 1970. US $4000-6000

Lot 073. Al Quds, Nahar Marzooq, b. Saudi Arabia 1970. US $4000-6000

DL: Should collectors bid on a work because it is a good investment or because something about the piece moves them emotionally?

MB: This is a very interesting question. There is no denying that art has become an investment and in the economic climate that we went through in the last few years it was a safe investment. But collecting has always been driven by emotion. There is a rush that comes when you first buy that artwork that you have made a bid on against the seasoned collectors. That feeling is driven by emotion and the love of the artwork once you first connect with it. We would advise collectors to make an investment or emotion-driven decision based on why they want each specific piece.

Lot 085: Mountain Bloom, Rimma Gagloeva, b. 1940 Uzbekistan.  US $6000-9000. From the collection of Alif Gallery Dubai

Lot 085: Mountain Bloom, Rimma Gagloeva, b. 1940 Uzbekistan. US $6000-9000. From the collection of Alif Gallery Dubai

DL: Is there an appreciation for modern Arab art among the collectors you engage with or is the general interest geared towards the contemporary, boundary-pushing pieces?

MB: The modern art movement in Saudi Arabia only goes back 70 years. However, the interest in collecting goes [far] beyond those 70 years. Collectors are interested in both modern and contemporary works.

The fact that we have the likes of Abdullah Hamas and also a generation of contemporary artists like Khalid Bin Afif, Saad bin Mohammed, Heba Abed, Abdullah Idris and Saud Mahjoub, says a lot about the strength of Saudi art and how it continues to resonate with a wide audience.

Lot 113: Camps, Abd Elrazzek Shaballout b. Syria 1974. US $15000-20,000

Lot 113: Camps, Abd Elrazzek Shaballout b. Syria 1974. US $15000-20,000

DL: How were you trained as an auctioneer?

MB: My background includes serving as Founder of Arabian Wings, curator for many of other projects and a specialist in the history of Saudi art. Arabian Wings’ presence at many international auctions in addition to our knowledge and strong relations with auctioneers globally has served as informal further training.

Lot 128:  Calligraphy, Hassan Al Masoudi, b. Iraq 1944. US $2000-4000

Lot 128: Calligraphy, Hassan Al Masoudi, b. Iraq 1944. US $2000-4000

DL: What are the top three lots in the catalogue that you would recommend to a young collector who would like to acquire his or her first major work at the upcoming auction?

MB: 40% of the artworks are considered modern and 60% of the pieces are classified as contemporary, and most likely to appeal to young collectors. For me it is difficult to focus on a particular piece, however I can name a few:

Lot 25 – Khalid bin Afif
Lot 48 – Hamad Al Saab
Lot 98 – Itab Al Sheikh
Lot 107 - Ali Al Hassan

Lot 192: Untitled,  Mohsen Salem,  b. 1961 Saudi Arabia. US $500-$1000

Lot 192: Untitled, Mohsen Salem, b. 1961 Saudi Arabia. US $500-$1000

Good Ideas: The 4th Arabian Wings Auction will take place 11 September, 2014 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at 7pm at TheGallery Art Space located at Al Furusya Yacht Club. You can view a complete catalogue of all lots here. To register for a paddle to bid in person please go here. To make plans to bid via telephone you can learn more here.

A version of this interview has been co-posted on The National Art Blog, edited by Anna Seaman. For a perpetually good read check it out here.

Images: Courtesy of Arabian Wings, the artists, and corresponding collections.

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

The Rise of Dubai Street Art

This summer, an assignment to present Dubai's growing street art scene in Open Skies (Emirates Airlines' in-flight magazine), sent me to art studios, graffiti walls, galleries, and tripping through various unpaved back streets. I hope that this piece quietly changes international perceptions about what it is like to live in Dubai and what our art community is all about. Read on for an excerpt and some photos I snapped behind the scenes as the article was coming together:

Ruben Sanchez and his work on the cover of September's Open Skies

Ruben Sanchez and his work on the cover of September's Open Skies

"Despite debate about its direction and definition, Dubai's street art scene is growing, bolstered by government backing for public art, high-profile supporters, residencies from world-renowned artists and a small but committed community of local talent.

I snapped this photo of eL Seed's wonderfully messy desk at Tashkeel during our interview

I snapped this photo of eL Seed's wonderfully messy desk at Tashkeel during our interview

Dubai has made a name for itself in the art world in the last decade. It has a respected annual art fair, Art Dubai, which, having celebrated its eighth year in March, is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the Middle East's art calendar. Christie's Middle East, and its rapidly developing gallery scene, driven by hubs in Dubai International Financial Centre and Alserkal Avenue, a collection of galleries and creative spaces in what is still an industrial area of the city, is vibrant year-round.

Ruben Sanchez playing around in his Tashkeel Studio with a skull he found in the desert

Ruben Sanchez playing around in his Tashkeel Studio with a skull he found in the desert

But, despite its growing reputation as an 'art city,' Dubai is not where you would expect to find an emerging street art scene. Local patrons, gallery directors and artists disagree over definitions, as will become evident in a moment, but mention street art to your average man or woman on the street and they will associate the movement with run down urban centers and New York's graffiti explosion in the 1970s and 1980s, with artists who painted subways, benches and other urban surfaces and were documented in Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's 1983 documentary Style Wars, street-inspired gallery shows by commercial artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, or more recently, Shepard Fairy, creator of Barack Obama's 2008 Hope presidential campaign poster, and the enigmatic British stencil artist Banksy.

The pantry full of spray paint that Sya One and Steffi Bow keep stocked in their Jumeirah Village Triangle villa, proving that the suburbs aren't dull at all

The pantry full of spray paint that Sya One and Steffi Bow keep stocked in their Jumeirah Village Triangle villa, proving that the suburbs aren't dull at all

Steffi Bow's self-portrait hanging in the stairwell of the villa she shares with husband Sya One

Steffi Bow's self-portrait hanging in the stairwell of the villa she shares with husband Sya One

Those who have spent time in the Middle East might also refer to Beirut, a city that is painted top to bottom in bright murals by internationally admired artists such as Yazan. The notion of street art doesn't fit with the common- and on the whole accurate- perception of Dubai as a sparkling modern metropolis.

There's no Banksy of Dubai - yet. But most residents of the city will recognize the work of Arcadia Blank - if not the creator's tag- the only anonymous graffiti writer in town, who is known for scrawling satirical or poetic phrases such as "Alone we're empty. Together we are the universe" distinguishable by a triangle or u-shaped symbol."

FN Designs' gallery wall was tagged in the dead of night by Arcadia Blank with: "Reality wasn't built 4 everyone."

FN Designs' gallery wall was tagged in the dead of night by Arcadia Blank with: "Reality wasn't built 4 everyone."

The Open Skies feature

The Open Skies feature

1609716_10154498886195004_6720168793812984824_n
You can download the complete article here: Dubai Street Art Open Skies Sept 14 Danna Lorch

Good Ideas: To watch a video of Sya One and Steffi Bow talking street art at their wall in Jumeirah Village Triangle or to read this feature online, download the free Open Skies app on iTunes here

Image Credits: Danna Lorch

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

My September Art Diary: Essential UAE Openings and Exhibitions Not To Miss

After a long, dusty summer Dubai’s art scene reopens with a bang in September (cue gold confetti, jazz fingers, and the POP POP POP of bottles of date champagne being uncorked). I’ll be the one in vintage polka dots scribbling zooming thoughts into a little red notebook in the corner at gallery and museum exhibition openings. Prepare yourself for a long post. You might even need to break for a downward dog, a snooze, or a cookie halfway through. Here in no particular order is a curated selection of the openings, exhibitions, and events I’ve got marked in Sharpie in my little blue diary for the opening of Dubai’s art season:

Alserkal Avenue Galleries Night

10563198_719228911447174_3378375004380782210_n

My scuffed Al Quoz shoes (I keep them reserved for long walks down dark alleyways in pursuit of breakout art exhibitions) are dusted and ready to go for 15th September from 7pm onwards. The re-opening of Dubai’s art season will debut at Alserkal Avenue with intriguing shows at a number of participating galleries. Come first for the art (and please don’t be afraid to ask questions or say what you really think of it…we need to cultivate a culture of critique around here), and then for the people watching; the very best of the city’s street style will be in full affect. Poets, painters, babies, and fashionistas are expected.

Deets: Alserkal Avenue

We’ll Build This City on Art and Love

Courtesy of Shurooq Amin and Ayyam Gallery

Courtesy of Shurooq Amin and Ayyam Gallery

Ayyam Gallery in DIFC presents Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin’s latest solo show to an adoring Dubai with an opening reception to be held 14th September from 7-9pm and the exhibition running through 23 October. The controversial painter who has always placed the role of Arab women in society front and center (even when her own life was threatened for doing so), debuts a new series of work that brings back her trademark reds, pinks, and obsession with fashion while also incorporating an arson of fresh materials and influences. Expect braille, Lewis Caroll, and a nod to Arabic poetry. I’ve been Tweeting back and forth with Shurooq for months and can’t wait to meet her in person and share my support for her vivacious, brave work.

Deets: Ayyam Gallery

Silk Rose and Sneakers

10dbf61afe3a6709a7b2ea2d5d5afd63

An exhibition by photographers Billy & Hells and Susan Barnett opens at The Empty Quarter in Dubai’s DIFC with a reception Sunday, 14th September (7-10pm) and the show running through 23rd October. I was already hooked by the name of the show alone, which promises an ironic deep dive into pop culture. I’ve been an admirer of Billy & Hells’ work for some time typically portraits that play off of clichés. The duo’s name is a pseudonym rumored to originate from billing hotels, a cheap motel. I’m curious to see what happens when photographer Susan Barnett with her penchant for American subcultures and the good old-fashioned t-shirt is added into this mix.

Deets: The Empty Quarter

Works on Paper: Hikayat
 

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, Ink on canson paper, 1973. Courtesy of Green Art

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, Ink on canson paper, 1973. Courtesy of Green Art

Green Art Gallery hosts a group exhibition of more than 50 works on paper by an impressive lineup of modern Arab artists. The show opens with a reception at 7pm on Monday, 15th September held in conjunction with the Alserkal Avenue Galleries Night (see above) and runs through 26th October. Plain old drawing is sadly dying out in popularity in the art world and this brave show takes us back to our roots by introducing a new generation of art collectors to the stories of the modern masters including Houzayma Alwani, Mahmoud Hammad, Adham Ismail, Jamil Molaeb, Fateh Moudarres, Aref El Rayess, Khaldoun Shishakly, Seif Wanly and Elias Zayat. I’m personally itching to view work on paper by Fateh Moudarres (1922-1999, Syria), who was able to bring mythology and politics to life both in art and poetry. His paintings are frequently auctioned off at prices I can’t yet afford (but oh how I wish) yet I’ve never seen any of his works on paper. Anyone who appreciates contemporary Arab art should visit this show for a firmer grounding in the region’s past.

Deets: Green Art Gallery

Vantage Point Sharjah 2

Photo by Yazan Khalili courtesy of the artist and Sharjah Art Foundation

Photo by Yazan Khalili courtesy of the artist and Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation opens Vantage Point Sharjah 2, a photography exhibition featuring portraits taken by UAE residents on 30 August set to run through 3 December. Anytime Sharjah Arts Foundation collaborates with local artists the outcome is nothing short of sublime and this show (now in its second edition) with more than 180 photographs from 48 participants will reveal a whole other side to the UAE from the glitzy skyscraper shots we’re ordinarily bombarded with. One of my favorite ways to spend a hot afternoon is wandering through the alleyways and galleries of Sharjah Art Foundation, and I’ve set aside that time next weekend for a luxuriously long pilgrimage. If you haven’t already, be sure to mark your diary for Sharjah Biennial 12, themed “The past, the present, the possible” set to take place 5th March-5th June, 2015.

Deets: Sharjah Art Foundation

Fluid Forms

Liquid Woolen Handmade Rug, Faig Ahmed, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Cuadro Art

Liquid Woolen Handmade Rug, Faig Ahmed, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Cuadro Art

Artist in Residence Faig Ahmed’s solo show at Cuadro Gallery in Dubai’s DIFC opens 14 September and continues through 30 November. The Baku-based artist changes perceptions of the traditional woven carpet and causes viewers to do a double-take when encountering his liquid woolen handmade rugs, ultimately questioning the give and take between old and new, custom and innovation. What begins as a standard carpet spills onto the floor in a gorgeous puddle. Expect to see hand woven techniques revved up with contemporary design, optical illusion, sculptural elements, and digital superimpositions.

Deets: Cuadro Art Gallery

Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking from India and Pakistan

Courtesy of Sharjah Museums Department

Courtesy of Sharjah Museums Department

Sharjah Museums Department announces the opening of Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking from India and Pakistan at the Sharjah Art Museum. The exhibition, which opens on 10th of September and is set to run through 20 November, will introduce the shared legacy of India and Pakistan of one of the world’s oldest artistic mediums of printmaking from before and after the Partition to a UAE audience. I’m geared up to get a crash course on printmaking, Indian and Pakistani art, with a side of history at Sharjah Art Museum.

Deets: Sharjah Museums Department

Accidental Excavations

Vase of Flowers. Courtesy of Mariam Suhail, Grey Noise, and Gallery SKYE

Vase of Flowers. Courtesy of Mariam Suhail, Grey Noise, and Gallery SKYE

Mariam Suhail’s debut show in the Middle East opens at Grey Noise (in collaboration with the Bangalore/ New Delhi Gallery SKYE) on 15th September at 7pm and runs through 24th October. I’ll admit that when I received the press release for this show I was puzzled by the collection of images, which included a series of shots revealing various amounts of greenery through a window, a mystery object clumsily wrapped in floral paper, and an academic tome. How do these all connect and what story do they tell? I’m curious enough to plan a visit to Grey Noise to find out!

Deets: Grey Noise Gallery

Tashkeel Sound Art Film & Discussion Programme

10614154_765835790129776_3335529723838942438_n

Sound art is still rare in the region and two of Tashkeel’s resident artists Chris Weaver and Fari Bradley will introduce a Dubai audience to the medium over various films and discussions to be held over Wednesday evenings 3rd-24th September. This is a remarkable opportunity to pick up a completely free introduction to sound art and an appreciation of the most significant performances to date, as well as to get acquainted with a solid roster of guest speakers. We might take it for granted but listening is truly an art form that deserves our attention.

Deets: For event information go here

Related posts:

Share your thoughts

Max Pam's Unquenchable Wanderlust: Ramadan in Yemen

“What could I say about Yemen that did it justice. I tried in my journal to work it honestly. I tried with 60 rolls of black and white 120 film to translate the experience. That hot, spare and beautiful Ramadan.” –Max Pam

Max Pam is an Australian photographer who spent Ramadan of 1993 traversing the rugged terrain of rural Yemen. This is the first time that this many of these images have been exhibited in their entirety, and they have found a very fitting home at the latest addition to Dubai’s burgeoning gallery scene, East Wing.

The Suq. From Ramadan in Yemen

The Suq. From Ramadan in Yemen

Although Pam did not make it to Dubai for the opening of Ramadan in Yemen, I was lucky enough to correspond with him and receive his behind the scenes take on several of the photographs from the show that especially spoke to me. I’ve added his comments into the captions.

Many of the photographs were mounted on paper, ringed with memories about each image handwritten by the artist. I found myself rotating my neck in awkward circles, stretching to make out each of the stories. I may have looked like a heron watching a fish dart below the surface of a marsh standing there, moving like that, but I simply couldn’t tear myself away from what I was reading. The handwriting made me nostalgic for a time when it was normal to receive postcards from wandering friends, and to know someone so intimately that I could recognize their handwriting. Those days of personal correspondence are quickly dying out.

Max Pam's distinct handwriting framing a photograph from the series

Max Pam's distinct handwriting framing a photograph from the series

unnamed

From Ramadan in Yemen

From Ramadan in Yemen

Photography at its most powerful achieves the project of making unfamiliar issues or cultures relatable and unforgettable and Pam has accomplished that here. The images are highly intimate glimpses into every day life in Yemen, from buying an iftar chicken in the market to taking a day long taxi over the mountains to visit family members, to fixing a car—little mundane moments that anyone viewing the images has surely experienced in his or her own cultural context.

This makes it easy to relate to the subjects in a way that makes us realize that the people of Yemen are not that different from people anywhere else. The sensitivity and respect with which Pam shoots is what drew me in above all. I was amazed to learn that he reached this level of comfort with his subjects and their culture rapidly, as the entire journey was made in a matter of weeks.

Abdullah Fixing the Broken Toyota. Pam: "This shot happened on the road from Shihara to Sanaa, the back axle almost fell off and took 3 hours to fix.”

Abdullah Fixing the Broken Toyota. Pam: "This shot happened on the road from Shihara to Sanaa, the back axle almost fell off and took 3 hours to fix.”

North Yemenis, 1993.  Pam: “Here two and three generations of men—grandfather, son, and grandson were photographed on the high ridge Shihara occupies on Shihara Mountain, 2,600 Meters high.”

North Yemenis, 1993.
Pam: “Here two and three generations of men—grandfather, son, and grandson were photographed on the high ridge Shihara occupies on Shihara Mountain, 2,600 Meters high.”

Although he has an enviable home base in Fremantle, Australia (check out this interview and home tour if you’re curious to know more), Pam is a lifelong wanderer and is well known for books like Supertourist that document his field trips. His wanderlust manifests itself as an unquenchable craving to see and capture far off lands and the people who live there.

A Russian Gun, 1993. Pam: “I met him on a track firing his Russian handgun out into the massive view. He introduced me to his grandfather and son.”

A Russian Gun, 1993. Pam: “I met him on a track firing his Russian handgun out into the massive view. He introduced me to his grandfather and son.”

The Chicken, 1993. “This is so typical of a country without supermarkets— you buy meat live in the market and take it home to be killed and eaten.”

The Chicken, 1993. Pam: “This is so typical of a country without supermarkets—
you buy meat live in the market and take it home to be killed and eaten.”

Taxi to Taizz, 1993. Pam: “9 people rode in the Peugeot 404 station wagon, the common vehicle of choice for the intercity shared taxi service. These were the people directly behind me on that ride, from Aden to Taizz, a full day’s drive.”

Taxi to Taizz, 1993. Pam:
“9 people rode in the Peugeot 404 station wagon, the common vehicle of choice for the intercity shared taxi service. These were the people directly behind me on that ride, from Aden to Taizz, a full day’s drive.”

Newcomer DIFC gallery East Wing is a serious addition to Dubai’s growing art scene and promises to bring some of the top names in contemporary photography to the city for exhibitions, master classes, and art salons. The space also has a tempting collection of photography books on offer arranged on shelves that made my inner intellectual shiver with envy. The books are not shrink wrapped in plastic, so you can actually hold them in your hand, turn pages and browse over an afternoon. Director Peg Amison said that plans are in place to host a number of educational talks and events beginning over the coming art season.

An installation shot of the show at East Wing's new space in Dubai's DIFC

An installation shot of the show at East Wing's new space in Dubai's DIFC

The library at East Wing. I am coveting those bookshelves and the reading nook.

The library at East Wing. I am coveting those bookshelves and the reading nook.

Good Ideas: Ramadan in Yemen will run at East Wing in Dubai's DIFC through 10 September, 2014. You can also purchase a copy of the accompanying limited edition book published by Editions Bressard. For more information about the show and East Wing go here.

The cover of the limited edition publication of the work by Editions Bressard

The cover of the limited edition publication of the work by Editions Bressard

Image Credits: Courtesy of Max Pam and East Wing

Related posts:

Share your thoughts