Courtesy of YSP © Jonty Wilde

International artists living in war zones email work to UK exhibition

Nicola Sullivan, 29.11.2016
YSP features the work of artists from countries in turmoil
Artists based the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will populate an exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) with artworks sent via email.

The project Beyond Boundaries: Art by Email - a collaboration between YSP and ArtRole - aims to give artists living in countries experiencing war and political turmoil the chance to tell their stories. Following an open call for artworks, 16 artists from five MENA countries were chosen to participate in the exhibition.

The artists were asked to produce work that reflected the reality of their current situation but also the resilience, hope and creativity in the region in which they live. The final artworks were chosen by ArtRole's chief executive Adalet R Garmiany and Helen Pheby, the senior curator at YSP, and include photography, film and performance.

Pheby said: "There's so much brilliant art out there that's just not getting seen, particularly in the UK, because some artists can experience difficulties getting here. We’ve had to find a way around these restrictions. Now visitors to YSP will discover artists and artworks that they wouldn’t have otherwise."

An abstract sculpture by the Iranian artist Sahand Hesamiyan, the instructions for which were submitted via email, will be 3D printed during the exhibition. A photograph by the Iraqi artist Younes Mohammad depicts a refugee carrying a pillow through an unfinished construction site. “He sleeps in a different place every night. No one was expecting such a huge number of refugees so the Kurdistan regional government started to place them in schools, streets and even unfinished construction sites," said Mohammad. 

Meanwhile, Egyptian-born artist Mai Al Shazly’s video installation Undercurrents – two films displayed at a right angle to one another – shows the relationship between resistance and non-resistance, an active aggressor in combat and a passive enemy beside a calm ocean.

The exhibition will also feature a photograph of a performance by multi-disciplinary artist Azar Othman, who collected people’s thoughts on current affairs, environment and culture. Handwritten on bits of paper, these thoughts were displayed in the centre of Sulaymaniyah City in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Otham will also become YSP’s first virtual visiting artist and will take part in an online discussion with Pheby on 21 January. Visitors will help give Otham a sense of YSP by sharing images, thoughts and experiences using the hashtag #ForAzar.

The work will be on display from 7 January to 5 March in YSP's Bothy Gallery.