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All the world’s a stage

Novemver 25 - December 1, 2020

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly All the world’s a stage

With a passion for posture, Bahraini artist Ali Hussain Merza is blending canvas and theatre in his latest Covid-inspired pieces.

Ali’s There is Signal piece is part of The Great Lockdown Exhibition at the Bin Matar House located on Muharraq’s historic Pearling Path, and he is on a panel of artists to be featured in the Kuwait-based Quench Your Thirst digital exhibition.

“My artwork is an attempt to create a state of communication within a painting, using canvas as a place of expression through body gesture,” the 33-year-old artist told GulfWeekly.

“The body speaks in the most universal human language and my interest in the world of the theatre has a big impact on my art.

“The scenes of life cannot exist without the actors.”

Ali’s work as a theatrical scenographer designing sets for theatre gives him a unique prism into the connection between a stage and its players.

His subjects are often portrayed crouched or reflecting their inner dialogue using their bodies.

In his piece There is Signal, human relationships with each other and with electronics during the Covid-19 pandemic are explored.

For the Quench Your Thirst exhibition, in his piece Did I pick it up, Ali depicts a man struggling with the passage of time.

“Bathed in sweat, he was whispering to himself trying to stand among them or reach up to their standing position, having the same concerns of the old people, unseen by the shadows, neither preceding nor followed by anyone, with rounded back, he was trying to walk and nod,” he explained.

“Since he is not aware if this is his fall or the beginning of his standing up, he searches for it with all his heart. He tries to balance, contemplating the passage of time, and again nods.”

Ali is one of 24 artists chosen from around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Netherlands and Iraq, for the digital exhibtion. 

His artistic affair with the theatre began in high school and continued through his postsecondary studies, as he studied scenic design at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Kuwait, graduating in 2010.

He has since participated in fine arts exhibitions and theatrical showcases in the kingdom and abroad. He has been part of the Bahrain Annual Fine Arts exhibition (BAFA) since 2013 and held his first solo exhibition in 2018, titled Wanderers, at the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities’ Art Centre.

He has also curated the ‘Syncopation’, ‘Nashaz’ and ‘Parallelism’ art exhibitions in Bahrain over the last four years.

In 2018, Ali was the recipient of the prestigious Al Dana prize at the BAFA and took the top prize for scenography at the Khalid bin Hamad Theatre Awards in 2017.

“Art is the most beautiful human connection between people,” the artist said.

“We can love through it. We can disagree through it. So, art is more than just being ‘something’ for pleasure and beauty.”

Many of his pieces are larger installations, in which the audience becomes part of the work, navigating the grey area between fine art and theatre.

The young artist has also decided to focus his energy, inspiring and training youth, conducting numerous workshops and events training them in painting, printmaking and more.

Check out Ali’s work by following @ali4art on Instagram.

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