Gallery Sarah at Bait Al Zubair is hosting the first virtual exhibition – Encoding the Landscapes – by artist Davina de Beer, a South African artist currently living in Muscat.
This is the first experience of the gallery virtually hosting an exhibition through its electronic platform, an effort to continue the establishment of its activities and artistic events with a mechanism consistent with the decisions of the Supreme Committee in charge of following up on the developments of the Corona pandemic, which urges the continued closure of gathering places of all kinds until further notice.
With 30 artworks showcased, Davina explores concepts of memory and the techno-sublime in a variety of media, including handmade books with light-sensitive Arabic gum prints, mixed media paintings, and her recent abstract paintings inspired by the landscapes of Oman.
She paints these abstract landscapes in oil paint on a patterned fabric to refer to digital code use in programming that she sources from the local souqs. Her research surrounds the constant presence of digital screens in 21st-century life, applying concepts of 18th and 19th-century Romantic landscape painting of experiencing nature as overwhelmingly beautiful, but also terrifying, to screens that act as portals into cyberspace.
Davina’s paintings aim to create a dialogue between the flat and glowing nature of digital screens, like mobile phones, laptops, television screens, and the tactile surfaces of paintings. The artist has a reverence for the atmospheric sublime Romantic paintings of the 19th century and refers directly to Caspar David Friedrich in some of her works.
“Oman, where I am living since 2008, has fascinating expansive landscapes that I find applicable to this idea of the sublime – it can be perceived as simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying by its magnitude or infinitude. I have painted abstract landscapes of Salalah and other Omani mountainous regions on pattern fabric during my exploration of this concept,” she said. The artist mostly focused on landscapes and portraits that play with the idea of the techno sublime – the idea that digital screens in our lives are very powerful, awe-inspiring but also frightening. Phone screens, television screens, tablets, PC’s, laptops, the screen has the power to transport us to anywhere in the world, even to unknown, fantastical places, they immerse us in cyberspace and we get lost. We lose time playing computer games, we lose time watching movies or series, even though we feel enriched while getting lost. This is already an amazing power for a little rectangular shape – that can function as a porthole – to have, she asserts.
Davina’s artworks showcasing the addiction or dependence on phones is also explored in portraits where the figures are distorted by pixels. they sometimes seem to turn into monsters and all of them are looking down as if on their phones.
“I call these ‘the new order portraits’ the artist said, because seeing people on their phones is a very common sight these days, it is the new’ portrait,” she said, adding, “Social media connects us to other people and offers a way for us to express ourselves, but at the same time it can also be experienced as very intrusive… making the private public, or blurring the boundaries between public and private spaces. Our private information floats around the web, nearly everybody has a ‘digital presenc’. How much control do we really have over our own digital identities and what can be easily accessible by anyone with an internet connection? Cyber crime and cyber bullying are very real threats – threats that we allow into our lives because nobody can be connected efficiently these days without using the internet in some way. Work demands it, family demands it and friends demand it. Ultimately we have no choice.” Davina Said.
The artist has participated in numerous exhibitions in Bloemfontein, the city of her alma mater where she obtained both her BA Fine Art degree (2004) and her MA Fine Art degree (2008) at the University of the Free State. Davina’s artworks are included in many private art collections throughout South Africa, as well as the public art collection of the National Women’s Memorial and War Museum in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The artist’s first solo exhibition was in Dubai in 2011 at Gallery 76 at the Dubai International Art Center. Currently Davina works as an Art & Design teacher in Muscat, Oman, and continues to research ideas sprouting from her exploration of the techno-sublime.
(The gallery is still closed due to the pandemic until further notice. Price list available upon request. For information: [email protected].)
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