22 Feb 2024 - 01 Sep 2024

Hussein Sharif: Re-framing Reality

Cultural Foundation Abu Dhabi


Hussein Sharif: Re-framing Reality showcases four decades of the pioneering Emirati artist’s works, from the early 1980s until 2024, presenting a vast selection of his multidisciplinary practice including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture and installation. The Dubai-born artist’s practice spans more than fifty years, with evident contributions to various fields within the UAE’s cultural scene that extend beyond his impact as an artist, to contributions in theatre and publishing. His work process is ignited by his avid curiosity in exploring new materials and the changing urban socio-economic landscape of the UAE. Sharif consistently encounters objects that he reclaims and replicates to give them new considered identities, utilising various mediums to respond to his changing environments, current reality and the human condition.

As a practicing postmodernist artist, Sharif’s works strongly contributed to setting the UAE’s contemporary arts movement. He started exhibiting locally and internationally during the 1970s and was later introduced to the concepts of postmodernism by his brother, Hassan Sharif, greatly impacting his artwork trajectory. This also led him to exhibit as part of the ‘Five’ group, which came about in the mid-1980s. Considered the founders of contemporary art in the UAE, the members include artists Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Kazem and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, among others.

Sharif’s practice is founded on the theories of postmodernism and his oeuvre is presented over four main sections within the exhibition, reflecting the extent of this influence and the diversity of his practice. The first section titled ‘Encounters and replication’ introduces several, almost theatrical stages of his explorations across mixed media works, that are large in scale and volume. With a subsection that explores his two-dimensional sculptures,‘Cohesive Spaces’ takes you inside the home, as the artist ponders on cultural practices that make up the intimacy of our spaces.The second section,‘Intersections’ presents a transitional selection of his painting, where the influences of architecture and industry are showcased. Section three,‘Structuralism and Satire’ includes an intimate presentation of collages that articulate the artist’s humour and use of photography, as well as a selection of drawings that are monochromatic, refined and grounded in their use of repetition and structuralism. The final section within the building is an archival room, derived from the artist’s studio, showcasing smaller sketches and publications. The show also presents site-specific installations situated around the Cultural Foundation.

Hussain Sharif graduated with a degree in Theatre Design in 1986 from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Kuwait. Upon returning to the UAE, he took on a post as Head Designer at Sharjah TV. Sharif has exhibited internationally in numerous exhibitions in his native UAE,Russia, Holland, France, Egypt and Germany. Sharif has also engaged with several creative communities, including theatre, the Writers’Guild, the Emirates Fine Art Society and FlyingHouse, of which he was a founding member. He also helped establish Taksheel magazine, one of the UAE’s first art publications.

The exhibition is on show until 1 September 2024 at Cultural Foundation Abu Dhabi.

Curated by: Aysha Al Hemeiri and Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Press release from Cultural Foundation Abu Dhabi

Image: Hussein Sharif. Untitled. 2023. Cardboard and mixed media. 80 x 130 cm. Image courtesy of the artist