Inside Michèle Lamy’s Exhibition Navigating the Light and Darkness of Life

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Chiaroscuro Michele Lamy exhibition Dubai
Curial Aluminum (2022) Rick Owens Aluminum (Polished)Image courtesy the artist

As the new group exhibition Chiaroscuro opens in Dubai, Michèle Lamy talks about showcasing artworks that “interpret my vision between light and dark, to envision better times”

When Carpenters Workshop Gallery and Michèle Lamy were invited to curate a show at ICD Brookfield Place in Dubai, Lamy instinctually knew that the exhibition would unfold in the potent liminality between light and dark. “It was more of a feeling that we had that was related to the architecture of this place,” she explained, speaking before the show’s opening. “All those windows, it is completely open to the world. I thought at the time that, naturally, all the pieces would be black, but it also fits with the space.” Chiaroscuro, the Italian term for the contrast of light and dark, organically set the contours for the blazing programme of international and regional artists that Lamy developed in close collaboration with Malak Abu-Qaoud, curator of ICD Brookfield Place Arts.

If the exhibition is organised around the material binaries of chiaroscuro – what Lamy calls “The Light” and “The Darkness” – there is a smooth and reciprocal dialogue between each object. “There is a feeling that you are at home, you know, with [Latifa Saeed’s Braided] couch and our [Rick Owens Double Bubble] bed,” says Lamy, “but then you are completely opened to the world.” Under the first light of day, each object lives in the cool shadows of the glass-cubed space, but as night falls, they become the source of light, penetrating the outside darkness. Lamy and Abu-Qaoud’s message is clear: light and darkness cannot exist without each other.

In this vein, rather than polarising, Chiaroscuro is about the dimensionality that radiates from the in-between of light and dark: a generative space of cultures, materials, traditions. From the outset, Abu-Qaoud was adamant about including regional talent, like Omar Al Gurg and Zeinab Alhashemi, in dialogue with international artists, such as the Verhoeven Twins and Studio Drift, presented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery. “To show in an exhibition curated by Michèle was such an incredible opportunity to give back to the region,” says Abu-Qaoud, “it made it relevant to our region and opened a whole other world.” Lamy shared a similar desire, explaining that she “didn’t know what ICD [Brookfield Place] was before – I knew they were doing events but it’s not specifically a gallery. Then they invited Carpenters Workshop Gallery [to collaborate] and I knew that for me, it was very important that there is a continuation of us talking about [the region], so that was the main reason for us working together.”

Several works presented in the exhibition embody this dimensionality within themselves. Take, for example, Omar Al Gurg’s magnificent Spike sculpture – a statuesque wood hanger, spiked with smoothed pegs. The imposing solidity of the work is lightened by its playfulness: the pegs can be moved around or replaced with bowls, in constant interaction with the world around it. “It grows over time, it grows with your family” explains Al Gurg. “I believe that the more you interact with your furniture, the more you have a sentimental relationship with it.” Similarly, Nacho Carbonell’s overhead light installation Inside A Forest exists exactly in the changing chasm between light and dark. Caged within netted metal structures, the texture of the lights depends on the time and space within which the sculpture is situated.

But the force of the exhibition lies in its eloquent manifesto to consider different ways of inhabiting and navigating the light and darkness of our world. “I am fighting for a new way of being through these dark and challenging times we are living through,” Lamy explains in the show notes, “and have used their works to interpret my vision between light and dark, to envision better times.” The show is, as Abu-Qaoud so perfectly puts it, “a gateway for talent” – and for the ideas, conversations, and actions they galvanise.

Chiaroscuro, a collaborative exhibition between Carpenters Workshop Gallery and ICD Brookfield Place Arts is on show at ICD Brookfield Place in Dubai until March 15.