Biographies of short-listed artists and designers:
Hamra Abbas (b. Kuwait) lives between Pakistan and the US. Abbas graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and MA in Visual Arts from the National College of Arts, Lahore before receiving Meisterschueler from the Universitaet der Kuenste in Berlin in 2004. Abbas has shown in numerous international solo exhibitions including New Works by Hamra Abbas, Green Cardamom, London (2008); and God Grows on Trees, Galerie Michael Schultz, Berlin (2008). Her work was included in the Guangzhou Triennial (2008); the 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007); the Biennale of Sydney (2006), and the Cetinje Biennial (2004).
Other group shows include Shake Before Use, ARTIUM, Vittoria, Spain (2008); Loop, Video Art Fair, Barcelona (2007); Beyond the Page, Asia House, London (2006); Zeitsprünge Raumfolgen, ifa Gallery, Berlin (2005); and Bueno Ensemble, The Arc Gallery, Chicago (2005). She has been awarded residencies and scholarships by institutions such as Art Omi, New York; Vermont Studio Center, USA; The Triangle Arts Trust, New York; and DAAD, Germany. Abbas’ work uses a range of media and often takes a playful look towards widely accepted traditions. Please do not step 3 will be a continuation of Abbas’ signature work utilising Islamic geometrical patterns, an integral feature of Islamic civilisation.
Reza Abedini (b. 1967 Tehran, Iran) lives and works between Iran and the Netherlands. After graduating in graphic design from the School of Fine Arts in 1985, he completed a BA in Painting at Tehran Art University in 1992. Since 1989 he has pursued a career as a graphic designer, founding the Reza Abedini Studio in 1993. Abedini has shown in numerous exhibitions in Iran and Europe including Persiannalite, Anatome Gallery, Paris (2008); Wordless at Mirak Gallery, Iran (2007); and Ween Schrift Bild Wird, Ifa Gallery, Stuttgart (2007). His solo shows include Posteram, De Affiche Galeriji, The Hague (2008); and Visual Language of Reza Abedini, Platform 21, Amsterdam (2006). His work has featured in books on design and visual culture in Iran and he has curated poster exhibitions at home and abroad. His work is in public collections including Musee de la Publicite, Paris; Mimar Sinan University Museum, Istanbul; Wilanowie Poster Museum, Warsaw; Ogaki Poster Museum, Japan; Dans Plakat Museum, Copenhagen; Essen Poster Museum, Germany. He has received many international awards including a Prince Claus Award in 2006. Abedini is a graphic artist creating work that contains many historical references such as the way in which he surrounds a single figure with empty space, which harks back to portrait painting and photographs from the Qajar period.
Afruz Amighi (b. 1974 Tehran, Iran) lives and works in New York. Afruz Amighi received a BA in Political Science at Barnard College and a Master of Fine Arts from New York University in 2007. She has completed a residency program at the School of Visual Arts in New York and was selected for the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art Emerge Program in collaboration with Creative Capital (2006). Group shows include Just a Ghostly Paper Sigh, 31 Grand Gallery, New York (2007); Please Touch, G.A.S.P. Gallery Boston, Massachusetts (2006); and Young Americans, Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, Wake Forest University, Winston Salem, North Carolina (2005). She is currently working on a solo exhibition at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York (opening spring 2009). Amighi’s work explores the often-tumultuous social and political history of Iran. Highlighting her own absence from the people and events that shaped these accounts, she casts a unique perspective of modern Iran. Her work references the architecture, myths and religion of present-day Tehran together with textures taken from Persian carpets, beaded curtains and prayer beads.
Sevan Biçakçi (b. 1972, Istanbul) creates jewellery inspired by the Byzantine and Ottoman history and architecture that surrounded him whilst growing up in a district called Samatya near the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul. At the age of 12 Biçakçi had an apprenticeship at the goldsmith master Hovsep Catak’s workshop in the Grand Bazaar where he learned from more than 500 years of traditional jewellery making. In 1990 he set up his own jewellery workshop and for almost 10 years served larger jewellery manufacturers as a freelance model maker. His first personal collection came out in 2002 and since then his unique work, which requires meticulous craftsmanship, has been the focus of attention of collectors throughout the world. Biçakçi is a three times winner of the prestigious Town & Country Award in the gemstone category in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 he was selected by The Tanzanite Foundation as one of the five most successful independent jewellery designers. In 2007 he won the Turkish Patent Institute’s Golden Designer Award. He has pioneered techniques such as metal-based painting, engraving, calligraphy, intaglio carving and micro-mosaic setting.
Hassan Hajjaj (b. 1961, Morocco) lives and works in London and Morocco. Hajjaj has shown at numerous exhibitions and events including Salon Afrique, Royal Festival Hall, London (2005); Fashion in Motion, V&A, London (2005); Africa Remix, Hayward Gallery, London (2005); Contemporary African Visual Arts, British Museum, London (2005) and Graffix from the Souk, Dar Sharifa Gallery, Marrakech (2003) and has had solo shows at Leighton House Museum, London (2008) and The Third Line, Dubai (2007). His Moroccan roots are of great importance and influence in his work and enable him to contrast visual elements of both Arabic and European culture. His work evolved amid the emerging club culture of London, absorbing the music and styles of reggae, hip-hop and world music. After running
clubs and managing up-and-coming bands, he decided in 1984 to launch his own clothing and accessories label RAP. From his shop in Covent Garden, Hajjaj explored customised branded fabric and designed accessories, T-shirts, album covers and restaurant interiors. His installations utilise a wide range of media including photography, recycled materials and household items.
Khosrow Hassanzadeh (b.1963, Iran) lives and works in Tehran. Returning from the Iran- Iraq war, Hassanzadeh studied at the Faculty of Painting, Mojtama-e-Honar University, Tehran (1989-91) and later trained with his mentor, Iranian artist Aydeen Aghdashlou while studying at the Faculty of Persian Literature (1996-8). Hassanzadeh has shown in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the Middle East. Over 15 solo shows at venues including B21, Dubai (2008); Silk Road Gallery, Tehran (2007); French Cultural Centre, Damascus (2007); Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (2006); and Diorama Arts Centre, London (1999). Group shows include Word into Art, British Museum (2006); West by East, CCCB, Barcelona (2005); Far Near Distance, Haus der Kulturen, Berlin (2004); New Art, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (2002); and Iranian Contemporary Art, The Barbican, London (2001). His works are in public collections including The British Museum, KIT Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, The Tehran Museum for Contemporary Art, and the World Bank in Washington D.C. Hassanzadeh’s work combines art and poetry and many of his paintings and drawings can be seen as visual diaries incorporating his own writings, family, self-portraits and his experience of war. His paintings often deal with issues considered sensitive in Iranian society and he is frequently cited as a ‘political’ artist, although he continues to explore sociological themes particular to Iran’s hyper-gendered urban landscape. He has been the subject of several documentaries by the BBC and Arte.
Susan Hefuna (b. Germany) lives and works in Germany and Egypt. Hefuna has shown in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe, the Middle East, South Africa and the USA, including the Sharjah Biennial (2007); the Louvre, Paris (2004); the Seville Biennial (2008); and Venice Biennale (2009). Recent solo exhibitions include Albion Gallery, New York and London (2008); ACAF Alexandria (2008); Third Line Gallery, Dubai (2008); and Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2007). Her work is in public collections including the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Group Lhoist, Brussels; British Museum, London; Sharjah Art Museum, UAE; V&A, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; DIFC, Dubai; and Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
She won the International Award at the Cairo Biennial 1998. Much of Hefuna’s work is inspired by the beauty, structure and atmosphere of mashrabiyyahs (latticed woodwork) in Cairo. Inscribed with faintly visible words of ‘ANA’ (‘I’ in Arabic), ‘U’ and ‘ENTA’ (‘You’ in Arabic), combined with the Christian and Islamic year 2008/1429, the mashrabiyyah screens intervene between observer and the observed and reflect her personal experience of the ‘in between-ness’ of being in two cultures at the same time.
Seher Shah (b. 1975, Karachi, Pakistan) grew up in Belgium, the UK and New York where she currently lives and works. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1998. Shah has shown in numerous international exhibitions including 21: Selections of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2008); FIAC, Grand Palais and the Louvre, Paris (2008); Zeichnungen, Basel, Switzerland (2007); and Generation 1.5, Queens Museum of Art, New York (2007). Her work is in public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (part of the 21st-century acquisitions); Brooklyn Museum, USA; Queens Museum of Art, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Schauffhausen, Switzerland; Deutsche Bank Art Contemporary and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation, Austria. She was voted by Frieze Magazine as one of 2007’s most significant emerging artists. Seher’s work permeates many rich sources of influence ranging from analysis of a variety of historical architectural spaces, visual plays on perspective, aesthetics of modernism to the fantastical landscapes of science fiction and its power of transformation. Parallels can be made to ornamental arts and the use of Islamic geometries and patterns, as well as more contemporary practice such as animation and graffiti.
Camille Zakharia (b. 1962, Lebanon) lives and works in Bahrain. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design, Halifax, Canada in 1997. Zakharia has shown in numerous exhibitions and his solo shows include Double Vue, Centre Cultural Franco Bahreinien, Maison Jamsheer, Muharraq Bahrain (2008); Division Lines, Art Gallery, St Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada (2006); and Elusive Homelands, VCU Gallery, Doha (2006). His group shows include Sharjah Biennial 8, Sharjah Art Museum, UAE (2007); The Lands Within Me, Canadian Museum of Civilisation, Hull, Canada (2001-2003); and Far and Wide 3, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Canada (1998- 1999). He has been awarded many photography prizes. Zakharia uses his camera to document the journey that he has taken since his departure from Lebanon in 1985, in the wake of the civil war. He is known for his meticulously constructed photo-montages, collages and black and white prints which explore segments of his daily life. His work reflects on broader issues relating to the notions of home, identity and belonging in the context of a global world.