„“ - HASSAN SHARIF & CAROLIN KROPFF
On Saturday, 21 of August 2021, between 6 - 10 pm, STUDIOSPACE Lange Strasse 31 presented works by artists Carolin Kropff and Hassan Sharif. The short-term exhibition showed a homage by Carolin Kropff to her friend and mentor Hassan Sharif. Both artists share an interest in handicraft, repetition, inclusiveness and the passing on of knowledge.
Special thanks to Abdulraheem Sharif, without his support the exhibition would not have been possible.
“Positioned at the junction of improvisation and mastery, both artists grant themselves the freedom to evade technical perfection in favour of a process that is time-consuming and intimate as it develops, continuously readdressing decision-making in consciously playful ways.
A true celebration of process, in its endless repetition without ever repeating”.
Cristiana de Marchi, Finding Freedom in Repetition. Carolin Kropff and Hassan Sharif in the exhibition series „“
“I resorted to the idea of ‘redundant repetition’ in producing art. I would continuously engage myself in boring, recurring and endless activities, a feature that would become a signature of my artwork since
1982, its underlying purpose”. (Hassan Sharif)
Hassan Sharif’s quote, in Catherine David, “The art of weaving”, in Catherine David (ed.), Hassan Sharif. Works 1973-2011, Hatje Kantz, 2011, pp. 12-17, 16
“My creative practice moves between the realms of art and craft. It reflects my reflections on the intersection of making and contemplation in relation to our life experiences. Image making and storytelling on the one hand, and the exploration of processes, materials, traditional and improvised methods of making on the other, are central. Over time, the aspect of familiarity, community, and accessibility has become increasingly important. Therefore, I open my studio to invite all who are interested to co-create, to participate”. (Carolin Kropff)
Hassan Sharif (born 1951, Bandar Lengeh, Iran - died 2016, Dubai, United Arab Emirates) lived and worked in Dubai. Recognized as a pioneer of conceptual art and experimental practice in the Middle East, his work is represented in major public collections, such as the Guggenheim New York, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Centre Pompidou, Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and Sharjah Art Foundation.
Sharif developed semi-systems that were initially influenced by British Constructivism and in particular by Kenneth Martin's concept of "chance and order".
In the 1980s, he began with the simple joining of found and purchased industrial materials or mass products with ropes, threads and wires. The creation of these objects was based on simple manual labour, such as weaving, an activity that anyone*r could do and which required minimal effort. In his own words from 1980:
“Creating these works requires very simple handicraft that is at once repetitive and non-repetitive. I stay away from complicated technology and I have no secrets, so this is actually something that anyone can do. Hence I chose the tag ‘Weaving’ which requires neither strenuous physical activity nor unique skill. All that is required is a pair of hands and minimal effort."
Carolin Kropff (born 1966 in Altenbüren) studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie and Städelschule Frankfurt where she graduated. From 1989-1991 she worked as an assistant costume designer and men's tailor at the Theater Dortmund. From 1999 - 2002 she maintained studios in Madrid, Spain and 2006 - 2011 in Dubai, UAE. In 2020 she founded STUDIOSPACE Lange Strasse 31 in Frankfurt am Main. The project work is supported by the Kulturamt Frankfurt and the Fraureferat Frankfurt.
Her artistic work explores the relevance of cultural and communal inventions such as the archetype, myth, and traditional craft methods of making. Her interest lies in exploring the commonalities between image invention, creation and storytelling, and giving expression to their inherent possibility for communication, collaboration, and belonging to each other and to time. To this end, she increasingly makes use of folk art and participatory art forms.
She lives and works in Frankfurt am Main.
About the works:
Hassan Sharif, Table and Chairs, 2012. Wood, papier mache, coir, and acrylic, 178 components, variable dimensions
Hassan Sharif created the work while using the wood from a table and chairs donated to him by Carolin Kropff on the verge of her departure from Dubai. Following his characteristic approach to objects acquired in bulk from local markets, Sharif dismantled the table and chairs to obtain single, “modular” components that he then incorporated with natural fibres and colourful paper maché.
Hassan Sharif, Garden - C, 2001. Oil on canvas, 70 x 50cm
“In 2000 Sharif decided to start painting again. The medium of oil on canvas had lost its appeal for him in 1981, but now became an appropriate means of expression at the turn of the millennium.
At first, it was the plants at home that caught the artist’s attention. Just a few very colourful still-lives executed between 2000 and 2001 mark this phase. In the meantime, he continued making objects”.
Paulina Kolczyinska, “Hassan Sharif. A Rare Bloom in the Desert”, in Catherine David (ed.), Hassan Sharif.
Works 1973-2011, Hatje Kantz, 2011, pp. 24-73, 61
Carolin Kropff, Spectrum Flower Garden, 2020-2021. Cotton, acrylic paint, wool, thread, hand quilted, paper pieces ca.120 x 110 cm
Carolin Kropff ventures into experimentation by teaching herself the English paper-piecing technique, a strenuously process-based method for creating potentially endless works by juxtaposing modular elements. The wall piece consists of painted canvas, cut and sewn together again, while the paper needed for the paper piecing comes from a print of an older work of Kropff’s, belonging to her Paradise Lost series, that she started during her years in Dubai.
Carolin Kropff, Fata Morgana, 2007. Oil on hardboard, 20 x 60 cm (overall dimension)
“Fata Morgana is a term used in physics to describe a complex superordinate mirage, with alternation of compressed and stretched zones, and upright and inverted images. Kropff uses the Desert Gate - a group of large, now disappeared placeholder billboards for the various theme hotels of the Bawadi project in Dubai Land - as a stage to explore the phenomena of the manmade mirage”.
Larissa Kolesnikova: https://en.carolinkropff.net/desert-gates
Carolin Kropff, Anachroner, 2014. Archival pigment print on paper, 30 x 40 cm
The digital print belongs to the Paradise Lost working group. The paper background for Rainbow Garden was a large copy of Anachroner.
Images from left to right:
Hassan Sharif - Table and Chairs 1, 2012
Carolin Kropff - Rainbow Garden, 2021
Carolin Kropff - FataMorgana, 2007
Hassan Sharif - Garden C, 2001
Carolin Kropff - Anachroner, 2014
Images: © Alexander Schütz
The exhibition was accompanied by a workshop talk the next day.
Finding Freedom in Repetition.
Carolin Kropff and Hassan Sharif in the exhibition series „“
Cristiana de Marchi
How privileged you are, to be still passionately
Clinging to what you love;
The forfeit of hope has not destroyed you”.
Entering and exiting familiar spaces seems to be a recurrent theme that unifies, while avoiding homogeneity, the artistic outcomes of both Sharif and Kropff.
After a formal academic training in the United Kingdom (1979-1984), upon his return to Dubai
Sharif abandons painting and fully focusses his attention on the creation of his now iconic Objects. It is only “at the turn of the millennium”, and increasingly more from 2006 onwards, once forced out of his old house-studio in Dubai’s popular neighbourhood of Satwa, and embarking in the last chapter of his career, coinciding with the foundation of The Flying House – a collective space serving as a magnifier to promote a small, yet solidly crystalized group of conceptual artists living and working in the United Arab Emirates – that Hassan Sharif returns to painting with renewed enthusiasm and a touch of naivety.
Sharif’s Garden – C from 2001 is here paired with one of the smaller pieces from Carolin Kropff’s body of works titled Desert Gate, which were presented in a solo show at XVA Gallery in Dubai in 2010.
The two artists look at the environment surrounding them from radically different perspectives: if in Garden – C a predominant attention is reserved to the domestic sphere, in a receding, internalised gaze that excludes even the most immediate urban landscape; Desert Gate, which is described as a “complex form of superior mirage”, is undeniably affected by the natural and constructed ambient embracing the artist, as well as by her past stage experience, in a disillusioned and yet complacent acknowledgement of the theatrical appearance of an urban panorama that is constantly on the verge of replacement.
Hassan Sharif’s Table and Chairs belongs to the celebrated series of his Objects, which primarily consist of unintentionally arranged (in potentially infinite combinations) piles of mass-produced mundane products, which have been manipulated, disassembled and recomposed in various, artisanal forms by the artist.
Most of his Objects are characterized by a disaffection to the materiality and provenance of the modular objects utilized, with a prevalent inclination for inexpensive, popular items that can be acquired in bulk from local markets and are quite characteristic of Gulf low-class lifestyle. These materials are selected to address the extent consumerism and mass consumption has reached in his home country Dubai, although they function as a metaphor for globalized market strategies and acquired habits.
With this specific work though, Hassan Sharif narrates a different story, as the wood used for the work comes from a table and chairs donated to Sharif by Carolin Kropff on the verge of her departure from Dubai. By dismantling and incorporating the remnants of the now unrecognizable objects with his typical materials (natural fibres and colourful papier maché), Sharif reflects in a remarkably witty way upon trust and disillusion, the liberties of friendship, and the infinite potential of creation against any given – or assumed – sacredness.
With Blue/Green/Red/Yellow, following a similar – although opposite in direction – path, in her response to Hassan Sharif, Carolin Kropff neglects the pictorial technique that she manages to perfection, and ventures into experimentation by teaching herself the English paper-piecing technique, a strenuously process-based method for creating potentially endless works by juxtaposing modular elements.
The wall piece consists of painted canvas, cut and sewn together again, where the paper needed for the paper piecing comes from a print of an older work of Kropff’s, belonging to her Paradise Lost series, that she started during her years in Dubai. While echoing Sharif’s modular process, Carolin Kropff also addresses another aspect equally at the core of Sharif’s artistic approach.
With a palpable sense of liberation from the rules and constraints of painting, Carolin embraces “carelessness” about the technique and engages with the very idea of progression as a constituent component to direct the compositional decisions that are taken without premeditation. Although the outcome is undeniably visually incomparable to her figurative paintings, nevertheless the layering method that has characterized their creation is maintained and informs the piece, as it translates to a physical action and process, almost at the level of handling, while engaging with a similar urgency of doing and with an extended observation.
Positioned at the junction of improvisation and mastery, both artists grant themselves the freedom to evade technical perfection in favour of a process that is time-consuming and intimate as it develops, continuously readdressing decision-making in consciously playful ways. A true celebration of process, in its endless repetition without ever repeating.
Louise Glück, “October”, in Averno, Carcanet Press, 2006
Paulina Kolczyinska, “Hassan Sharif. A Rare Bloom in the Desert”, in Catherine David (ed.), Hassan Sharif. Works 1973-2011, Hatje Kantz, 2011, p. 61
Material and colorfulness
On the exhibition by Hassan Sharif and Carolin Kropff in the series „“ of the Studiospace at Lange Strasse 31
The invitation to the exhibition shows two images: One shows a stack of woods, with material and colour applied, piled on top of each other and photographed from one side frontally with ends facing each other. Three individual pieces lie in front of the stack, where the interconnectedness of underlying wooden materiality, overlying materials, and colourfulness can be observed more closely. The other image shows a work section composed of hexagonal partial surfaces. Each of these partial surfaces is provided with a luminous colourfulness, painted on and brushed on, a colourfulness reminiscent of that of the work in the first illustration. The first image shows the presentation of a work by Hassan Sharif, the second image a section of a work by Carolin Kropff.
Hassan Sharif's work is presented on a pedestal as a unified stack in the exhibition. It is a variable artistic object that reveals itself to be less sculptural than playful. "Table and Chairs" from 2012 consists of the disassembled parts of chairs and a table, a gift from Carolin Kropff and her husband, left behind before their departure from Dubai after a stay of several years, which the artist did not intend for his own private use, but as a source of material for his own work. Disassembled into individual parts, they were wrapped in coconut fiber, covered with paper pulp and painted with acrylic paint. No special skills are required for this, but the spirit of playfulness, which leads to a visible structure, to seeing that freedom of the human being, which exists in the game and raises him above everyday routine.
Carolin Kropff proceeds in a comparable and yet reversed manner in her work "Rainbow Garden" from 2020-2021, in which she makes use of the paper-piecing technique: a painted, simple piece of nettle was cut into hexagonal pieces, which were then provided with an inlay of paper and sewn together and on. The juxtaposition of the hexagons is determined by playful association; there is no rule, sometimes the continuation of line direction or colour dominates, sometimes the contrast. A structure was created that hangs on the wall as just that, not flat, but at a certain elevation. Here, too, the object character counts, emphasizing what has been made. It is about colourfulness on material. The work has no defined limit, it could tend to be continued, but so it is just enough. Carolin Kropff understands this work as a homage to Hassan Sharif.
Hassan Sharif had seen with his work with rather trivial materials, often in accumulation or linking in larger quantity, as well criticism of a society or civilization that in historical uprooting, in the loss of historicity turns to mass products and goods, but also to a "high culture" of elaborate artistic language and technology. The playfulness he presents is of lightness and humor, which should not make us miss the fact that it is precisely through this that there is something to see here and that a very unique, just playful way of seeing arises. According to the famous words of Schiller, the Mensch "plays only where he is Mensch in the full meaning of the word" and "is only fully Mensch where he plays." (Friedrich Schiller, "On the Aesthetic Education of Mensch in a Series of Letters, Fifteenth Letter). Friedrich Schiller linked his concept of the aesthetic to a critique of a present whose whole resembles "an artful clockwork," "where a mechanical life as a whole is formed from the piecing together of infinitely many but lifeless parts." "Eternally bound only to a single small fragment of the whole, a Mensch forms himself only as a fragment" (Eighth Letter). The game offers the antithesis.
With her textile work, Carolin Kropff ties onto the double structure of critique, as it can relate to play and playfulness. Both artists are essentially concerned with making and self-made things because in making things, the subject assures him/herself - just by making things.
The juxtaposition of these two works is accompanied by the presentation of a painted work by Hassan Sharif, "Garden" from 2001, a gestural free painting in which four potted plants dominate in front of a door, and a four-part painted work by Carolin Kropff, "Fata Morgana" from 2009, whose object represented display structures in the Dubai desert that served to advertise Dubailand, which "stand there as theatrical, painted gigantic signs in the landscape, at noon, in the evening, at night." (quote Carolin Kropff) In addition to the paintings, there is also a pigment print by Carolin Kropff, "Anachroner" from 2014, which refers to John Milton's "Paradise Lost".
© Frankfurt am Main 2022
The exhibition is kindly supported by Kulturamt Frankfurt und Frauenreferat Frankfurt.