The varying nuances of personal memory

06 Feb 2019

The intriguing title of Meem Gallery’s latest show, The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two, refers to a seminal paper published in Psychological Review in 1956 by well-known cognitive psychologist George A. Miller, where he discussed short-term memory, the storage of memories and the limits on our capacity for processing information. The three emerging Emirati artists featured in the show — Asma Khoory, Salama Nasib and Sara Al Haddad are also interested in exploring in their own unique ways the concept, complexities and manifestations of memory.

Khoory graduated in Visual Arts from Zayed University in 2017 and was awarded the fifth Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship, organised in collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design. Her large-scale work on canvas titled, Recollection, was created during the fellowship and features a collage of grey, brown, black and white textured patches. The patches are made from teabags that Khoory carefully opened, soaked in hot water for different periods with tea or ink, dried, and then glued onto a canvas to create an abstract arrangement that represents a collection of memories.

“Our memories of individual moments are all interconnected and influenced by each other. I wanted to create a work that represented this idea of memory as a huge ever-growing storehouse of emotions, interactions and experiences that flow into each other, hence I used teabags, which are like containers that hold something, but also allow it to flow out. The colour of each bag depends on how was soaked and reflects the age and intensity of a certain memory. The darkest ink-stained patches represent strong deeply embedded memories that have tainted other memories. The white teabags could be fleeting, faded or new memories that also have stains of dust or colour caused by contact with other bags and my hands. By artificially staining the bags to mimic false age I also wanted to explore the deceptive aspect of memory and show that just as our memories shape our personalities and attitude, we too influence our memories,” Khoory says.Syookueaaasd

The artist is also showing a sculpture featuring layers of similarly treated teabags placed on a white pedestal. “These fragile layers of memories seem to be a burden that weighs us down and does not let us move forward, but they can also be viewed as a gift or legacy from the past that we carry with us and enhance with new layers and which we can keep drawing from as we move forward,” Khoory says.

Nasib did her MA in Print from the Royal College of Art, London in 2018 and is exhibiting her Shadow series, which she presented at her graduation exhibition last year.

It is a deeply personal work focusing on forgotten childhood memories of tender moments with her mother. The artist has used the meditative techniques of photolithography and blind embossing on paper to create a set of seven prints based on old photographs capturing her close relationship with her mother.

Viewers must get close to see the small, delicate, barely visible images printed on a large white background. The intimate works contemplate how memories fade over time and how they are altered. The sense of absence and forgotten moments is reinforced by an accompanying soundtrack featuring the artist talking softly to herself about lost memories, love, and transience.

“A few years ago, I found a treasure trove of photographs from a trip to India with my mother in the late 1990s. They caught my attention because they are rare images of just the two of us in a park and I was moved to see how protective and affectionate my mother was towards me. I have no memory of that occasion, yet I can see how it has influenced me because today I take care of my mother with the same tenderness. In my prints I have represented those faded memories of the past, but I have excluded our faces and focused on my mother’s loving gestures of holding my hand as we walk, feeding me or hugging me. The idea is to remove the personal element and present a narrative about a mother and child relationship that every viewer can relate to,” Nasib says.

The artist has used blind embossing to add new images in her prints that connect her hazy memories of the past with the present and future. “Memories are like shadows — a subtle presence that appears, disappears and keeps changing. Sweet memories of the past can sweeten the present and future and this work is about recovering faded memories, relating them to the present and protecting them. The almost invisible embossed figures in my prints mirror the images in the photographs but with our roles reversed indicating the present where I look after my mother in the same way she once cared for me. But I have also added a third element of the figure of my mother standing behind me to express my wish that in the future she will once again take care of me,” Nasib says.

Al Haddad did her BA in Visual Communication from the American University of Dubai in 2011 and received a Fulbright Foreign Exchange Scholarship to do her MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She uses materials such as yarn and wool to weave together her feelings and memories in her artworks.

The work she is presenting in this show, ‘as you try to forget me’ is a long piece of crocheted dark grey yarn created in 2015 that was exhibited at the UAE Pavilion, Venice, in 2017 as one large piece suspended from the ceiling. She is now displaying it in the form of three suspended sculptural pieces.

“I like to use yarn and textiles because of the fluidity and malleability of these materials. My artworks represent my feelings and just as feelings can alter over time, these pieces also change with time and the space. Both the ‘you’ and ‘me’ in the title of this work refers to myself at different times. It is about accepting my feelings, trying to move forward by forgetting the past, struggling to let go, carrying memories from the past to guide me in the future, and changing how old memories affect me by looking at them differently,” the artist says.

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two will run at Meem Gallery, Al Barsha, until February 15.

® Gulf News