Aisha Alabbar Gallery is pleased to participate in Abu Dhabi Art 2022, presenting a new body of work by Emirati artist Alia Hussain Lootah (b. Dubai, 1987).
Consisting of three series each made in a different medium, Alia’s new works are continued explorations of kinship, interconnectedness and domesticity. Alia began exploring these concepts during the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) in 2014, drawing from her experience with motherhood. Since then, her representation of the subject developed through a protracted inward-looking process over six years, moving from figuration and familial intimacy to more abstract expressions.
In Repetition (2022), the largely monochrome suspended forms devoid of human features evidence a move from a hyperreal to an almost surreal, pseudo-scientific style. 2019 marked a turning point in Alia’s practice in which she began making minimalist gestures stripped of narrative content, which in 2022, ended in curvy biomorphic, bulbous subjects (Repetition 1, 2, etc.) centered on pastel yellow A5 paper. She fills the outlines in with wispy lines made by a fine ink pen, finding iterations, each dictated by a sequential arrangement of lines. They make up a grid of intricate, numbered drawings (up until 100). Alia’s drawings are born within the creative restrictions that come with motherhood. While each form appears organic or even embryonic, it is not the artist’s intention to gesture towards representation. Rather, these are acts of mark-making as an exercise in containment, subject to the rules of segmented time, the kind allotted to a young mother of four for spurts of uninterrupted work.
Alia’s work however goes beyond such rigid divisions to embody a sense of fluidity and enfoldment. Object 1 and Object 2 (2022) for example, are shiny black aluminum sculptures, 3D extensions of her drawings. A metal wire skeleton based on the sketch is filled with foam, cardboard and plaster with the help of her children, and the sculpture’s skin made using masking tape. It is then sanded and covered with car paint from her husband’s garage.
More personally, Alia’s sober palette soothes against the overstimulating colours of childcare. Her visually pleasing work provides a sense of comfort, a meditative ease. “When I started considering becoming a full-time artist, I realised that I wanted something but the environment wanted something else,” Alia says. Indeed her work is inextricable from her habitat and from a profound understanding of the overlooked object within it. Her latest 2 x 1.19-meter pastel works comprise a magnified shower bidet, nail clipper, and spoon (part of a series of 10 including a band-aid, toothbrush and pencils) among other functional tools in her everyday life.
If this represents a return towards figuration, it still maintains the distilled aesthetic of pure form that underpins Alia’s practice. Yet with all the sense of rigor that she exercises in her work, Alia’s impulse comes from a dynamic place of childlike curiosity. Such as when her son wanted to offer her a flower but couldn’t find one around the house, so he made petals from leftover screws around a rubber stem. The instinctive nature of Alia’s art is akin to intuitively feeling one’s way through the dark to discover a familiar object with an unfamiliar texture. Then it becomes totally new.