Different Realms

Galerie Isa is delighted to present ‘Different Realms’. This evocative exhibition brings together the work of two artists – Diana Al-Hadid and Louise Despont, whose individual practices draw from architectural associations as well as from diverse references and sources of inspiration which include cosmology, esoteric objects, religious art, historical imagery and cartography.

Though the work of the two artists is distinctly different, they share in common a fascination for the associative possibilities that architecture provides. An archway or doorframe is not merely indicative of a different era or geographical location - as distinguished by particular ornamentation or style - but a metaphysical portal into a rich, cultural fabric, mythology or ancient lore. There is something both awe-inspiring and moving about thinking on the lives of past civilizations and the architecture that framed and witnessed their daily rituals, journeys and formative events.

Diana Al-Hadid (b.1981 Aleppo, Syria) has long been fascinated by the historical frameworks and perspectives that continue to shape modern discourses on culture and materials. Her practice spans sculpture, bas relief and works on paper. Sometimes industrial, often ethereal and leaning towards abstraction at times, there is an ever-present enigmatic narrative that weaves throughout Al-Hadid’s work, imprinting itself on her creations - and onto the mind of the viewer. Like the total inversion of an image that hovers when we close our eyes after squinting at an art historical site in the searing sun of Southern Spain or North Africa, so we feel the essence of what Al-Hadid is trying to capture, - rather than the allusion. Taking inspiration from both ancient and modern civilisations, Al-Hadid’s rich allegorical constructions draw deep from the well of art historical religious imagery, ancient manuscripts, female archetypes, myths and folklore.

While Al-Hadid looks keenly to architecture for her work, what she produces is intuitive, reactive to the immediacy of the moment and almost shamanic in the idea of it developing according to its own logic. Recently, Al-Hadid has been inspired by the ancient temple doors of Rajasthan, but always there is a fine balance in her work between the presence and effects of the natural world on mankind’s creation and visualisation.

Louise Despont (b. 1983 New York) speaks of how working with found materials is akin to a divinatory process, wherein the history and energy of her materials guide her work. She says “It’s almost as if they materialize on their own accord”. While the collages at first appear to be architectural facades, upon closer inspection transform into Portals. The works are not attempting to foretell the future but rather opening windows into dreamlike realms. Despont works with antique papers collected from sources found in Mallorca - where she now lives and works. The materials in the collages include lithographs of facades and doorways from the 1920’s, drawing exercises from a convent school in the 1940’s, antique marbled pages from a book binder, a folio of religious and maritime etchings, an encyclopedia of carpentry, and gold leaf. In common with Al-Hadid, her practice brims with its own particular energy and this changes according to the various materials and methods she selects as most appropriate to each new creation.

Her practice is one of deep listening guided by the history and energy of the materials she works with. By combining these found materials with collage and drawing, she grows them into surrealist scenes. Each one of Despont’s Portals feel like a different and otherworldly realm- the eight collages read like chapters of a story. Scenes of temples and palaces give way to courtyards and gardens, punctuated with regal tombs, graceful arches, marble orbs, and architecture built up from layered geometric constructions. The work is subtle, understated even, but all the more powerful in its restraint and pared down aesthetic.

Welcome to Different Realms.