Two figures embrace inside a rectangular form. Their bodies, composed of abstract and undulating shapes, intertwine within yet another circular compartment. A rock, it seems to be. Intimately embraced, the figures hold onto each other passionately despite their surroundings structures, which are coloured in vibrant shades of yellow and orange with a strip of black and another in grey with a web of sorts.
“It’s called The Web,” says the artist Heitham Adjina from his studio in Dubai. “That person is embedded in a stone and he is feeling quite despondent — quite depressed in a way,” he adds. Clearly, whether there is one or more than one person is open to interpretation, but one thing for sure is that the work relates to what the artist calls “the cobweb of life.” The webs that emanate in what appear to be abstract pathways are like rays of escape, or maybe, rays of opportunity. “I believe, intentionally or unintentionally, that there are some sort of emotions in there,” says Adjina. “They refer to the crossroads of life and the structures that influence our present moment. And if you look closely, you’ll see a lot of windows in my work and windows, really are about freedom. It’s about getting out of a situation.”
A career architect who has practiced for over 40 years in Dubai, London, Kuwait and Baghdad, Adjina’s paintings couple the structures that make up our world with abstract renderings to reference individual emotional and philosophical inquiry.
Heitham Adjina, 'Catching the Moon', 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 120cm
The artist’s first solo exhibition in Dubai takes place at Showcase Gallery in Alserkal Avenue this March (18 March-12 May). On display will be around 30 works on canvas from various intervals of the artist’s career — paintings that refer to Adjina’s architectural explorations as much as they do his philosophical investigations into the nature of life. Abstraction always leaves room for subjective interpretations and his art does exactly this. The architect, who has always painted, even while working on some of the most important structures in the Middle East and Europe, including collaborations with Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, imbues within his work the edifices that inhabit our world. His paintings, which have been exhibited previously in London and Baghdad, explore the subjective meanings behind human consciousness. Adjina’s abstract renderings evoke pivotal scenes relating the meaning of life, love, family, hope and despair.
Heitham Adjina, 'The Web', 2009. Oil on canvas and board. 100 x 120cm
“Even while studying architecture I was always involved in art,” says the artist. “Both go together. I cannot divorce one from the other.” There is much emotion in Adjina’s work. While the firm lines that make up each painting are intend to structure and protect the individual, through the colours and the abstract figures the artist goes in search of the unknown — the subjective part of ourselves that we are forever discovering. “These works are about life,” says Adjina. “There’s always an emotion within these structural forms.” Hence, even what is static and seemingly absolute carries a subjective meaning. Adjina describes regular motifs like the window or the moon, which he notes has always been “something emotional and magical — something that indicates what we have left behind.” From 2002 to 2003 Adjina painted a lot of moons and a lot of windows. “I was getting worried,” he laughs, not taking himself too seriously. “The window symbolises hope, freedom and running away. But they don’t reflect only on me, but on my thoughts of people.”
Heitham Adjina, 'In Unison', 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60cm
Such elements can be found in multiple works — they reveal the allegorical symbolism inherent in Adjina’s art — the metaphorical process by which emotion is given a structured form. His art is also empathetic in vision. “I feel some people are born without a choice and this has influenced my thinking,” he says. “Why can’t we give these people the chance of a choice? My work aims to transcend this and offer something that goes beyond.” The works on view at Adjina’s first exhibition in Dubai demonstrate the choice we all have to transcend daily obstacles and contemplate the beauty of existence. They are true example of the architecture of being.
Architecture of Being at Showcase Gallery in Alserkal Avenue runs until 12 May 2019. showcaseuae.com
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