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Mohammed Kazem & Ekrem Yalcindag

On Saturday the 25th of September 2021, STUDIOSPACE Lange Strasse 31 presented works by artists

Mohammed Kazem and Ekrem Yalcindag.

Mohammed Kazem (born 1969, Dubai) lives and works in Dubai. He has developed an artistic practice that encompasses video, photography and performance to and new ways of apprehending his environment and experiences. The foundations of his work are informed by his training as a musician, and Kazem is deeply engaged with developing processes that can render transient phenomena, such as sound and light, in tangible terms. Often positioning himself within his work, Kazem responds to geographical location, materiality and the elements as a means to assert his subjectivity, particularly in relation to the rapid pace of modernisation in the Emirates since the country's founding.

Kazem was a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society early in his career and is acknowledged as one of the 'Five', an informal group of Emirati artists - including Hassan Sharif, Hussein Sharif, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Abdullah Al Saadi - at the vanguard of conceptual and interdisciplinary art practice. In 2012, Kazem completed his Masters in Fine Art at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. He has been participating in the Annual Exhibitions of the Emirates Fine Arts Society in Sharjah since 1986, as well as numerous editions of Sharjah Biennial, receiving first prize for installations in 1999 and 2003, and in 2007, he curated the Sharjah Biennial. In recent years, Kazem has participated in several group shows at the Mori Art Museum (2012), Boghossian Foundation (2013), Gwangju Museum of Art (2014) and the 2014 edition of the Fotofest Biennial in Houston (2014). He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale three times: in 2009 as part of a group exhibition curated by Catherine David, in 2013 he represented the UAE with an immersive video installation entitled Walking on Water, which was curated by Reem Fadda, and in 2015 he showcased works from the Tongue series at 1980 - Today: Exhibitions in the UAE, curated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi. His works are held in the collections of the British Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and New York, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Sharjah Art Foundation, Barjeel Art Foundation, and Vehbi Koç Foundation, among others.


Ekrem Yalcındag was born in Adıyaman in 1964. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Izmir Dokuz Eylül University in 1989. He completed his master’s degree at his alma mater in 1993. Between 1994 and 1999, he studied with Prof. Hermann Nitsch at Stadelschule Frankfurt.

Using geometric and floral patterns so as to praise handcraftsmanship, he maintains connection between art and design by adapting the traditional techniques of painting. While patterns create a visual delusion by repetition and interaction with each other, they signify timelessness (past-present-future) in the cultural context. 

Yalçındağ received fellowships and attended guest artist program in Schloss Balmoral in 2001, and Villa Waldberta in Munich in 2003. He has extensively exhibited in solo and shows in Turkey and in Europe.

His works can be seen in many public and private collections such as Allianz collection in Munich, Borusan in Istanbul, EPO in Lahey, Goetz Collection in Munich, Istanbul Modern Art Museum in Istanbul, Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart and Rückversicherung in Munich.

Currently Yalçındağ lives and works in Istanbul and Berlin.

“Repetition and variation are at the core of both Kazem’s and Yalcindag’s practice, just like their first approach to painting through the aesthetic exploration of the Impressionism French masters. The negotiation of an undeniable although often minimised Eastern cultural background – Yalcindag was born in Turkey and move to Germany at the age of 30, while Kazem was born and still lives in Dubai, UAE – and an elective inclination towards the artistic western canon invite to a reflection on strategies of self-positioning within the larger world, and highlight the relevance of community-based engagement in the process of formation of an artistic persona”

Cristiana de Marchi, “Pictures for the blind”. Ekrem Yalcindag and Mohammed Kazem in the exhibition series „“


“I deal with ephemeral elements, such as the imperceptible movements of apparently fixed objects and situations, and the passing of time. Everything constantly moves as time is passing: you cannot capture time, yet you are existing in it. We cannot visually perceive this universal movement; our very existence is in motion. […] most of my projects represent movement without visualising it ”. (Mohammed Kazem)

Cristiana de Marchi, “Mohammed Kazem”, in Eungie Joo, Ryan Inouye (eds.), The Past, the present, the possible. Sharjah Biennial 12, Sharjah Art Foundation, 2015, pp. 252-259, 252


“The works of Ekrem Yalcindag are subtle: they touch on contexts, but also let them be. Geometry, abstraction and concretion emerge in his works like discreet genetic traces of a fusion of different formal aesthetic worlds. However, just when we think we have discovered them, they already disappear again”. (Dorothea Strauss)

Dorothea Strauss, “Foreword”, in Dorothea Strauss, Christoph Doswald (eds.), Ekrem Yalcindag, Kehrer, 2013, pp. 3-7, p. 6

Mohammed Kazem, Nr. L1 - Fluorescent Yellow, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, Acryl auf gekratztem Papier, 2021

Mohammed Kazem, Nr. L2 - Fluorescent Yellow, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, Acryl auf gekratztem Papier, 2021

Mohammed Kazem, Nr. K1 - Rosa, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, Acryl auf gekratztem Papier, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, 2021.

Mohammed Kazem, Nr. K2 - Rosa, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, Acryl auf gekratztem Papier, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, 2021.

Mohammed Kazem, Nr. J1 -  Blue, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, Acryl auf zerkratztem Papier, 2021.

Mohammed Kazem, Nr. J2 -  Blue, 30,5 x 22,9 cm, Acryl auf zerkratztem Papier, 2021.

The works presented here belong to Kazem’s now iconic series of scratches, which he started in 1990 and declined ever since in a multiplicity of formats and even media.

“In 1990, the newly produced series called Scratches somewhat echoed his impasto paintings. In this, he used paper, occasionally scattered paint, and scissors to rhythmically punctuate the surface of the paper in an organic pattern, usually in a single color. The saturation of the pigment varied, depending on the punctures that had been made on the paper” (Paulina Kolczynska).

Ekrem Yacindag, Colored Black, diameter 150 cm, acrylic on canvas on wooden construction.
The work presented here displays an astonishing color restraint for Yalcindag without sacrificing subtle color interactions.

East-Western Divan
by Angelica Horn

On the exhibition by Mohammed Kazem and Ekrem Yalcindag in the "" series of the Studiospaces at Lange Straße 31

The visitor entering this exhibition encounters a tondo by Ekrem Yalcindag on the right hand side. The circular painting (diameter 150 cm, oil on canvas on wood) entitled "Colored Black" has narrow concentric rings around a small central circle. These are based on a preliminary drawing with a compass; the paint is applied freehand with millimeter precision. The individual rings are not kept flat, but have small linear elevations that create a certain movement. In 1997, the artist began working on round paintings alongside his rectangular formats; in 2017, he also started using black as the base color, to which individual shades are added. Yalncindag takes an "impressionistic" approach when choosing the individual colors of a tondo, i.e. he picks up on the colors of the respective surroundings. The colors of the individual stripes are selected "intuitively" from the point of view of the balance of the individual colors among each other and as a whole. There are always individual circles that stand out more brightly. The viewer notices the overall harmony without being able to discern a logic to the color scheme. This is what makes these paintings so constantly surprising. Even from a distance, the painting engages the viewer's gaze - in a sense, it is impossible to look past it.


The abstraction, the division of the round surface into circular stripes, is fused with the ornamentation of this very structure of the picture. The individual colors are just as expressive in their own right as they are conveyed as a whole. The application of color has a specific materiality; the color mass as such has the reality and function of a materiality, a corporeality; it is not merely used and understood as a carrier of a certain color value. The picture has a tactile impression, and its actual touch has a special charm. The ornamental character of the whole is reinforced by the elevations within the individual circles, the design and decoration of the individual stripes with linear elements. On the one hand, the combination of colorfulness and physicality keeps the viewer's gaze at a distance - it concentrates particularly on the relationships between the individual color values, and it moves from one color to another. On the other hand, this objectively material reality of color also keeps the viewer's gaze in the picture and constantly draws it back into the painting. The ornamentation in the individual circles and in the painting as a whole is amalgamated with an abstract geometric structure. The overall effect is a rational and "mystical" character of the work - an East-West unity.

The aesthetic effect of Mohammed Kazem's works, which are located diagonally opposite on the left-hand wall, is completely different. At first, the approaching viewer sees two bright yellow, pink and light blue surfaces (30.5 x 22.9 cm, acrylic on scratched paper, 2021), the structural characteristics of which become clear from close up. Small, dot-like elevations appear on the surface. In yellow, the leaf and "dots" are evenly colored. In pink-red, the surface is paler, almost a little bluish in appearance; the dot-like elevations are connected vertically like strings of pearls. The color intensity is unevenly distributed across the leaf. This appears even stronger and at the same time more concentrated in the two blue leaves. The result is a serial character of these works from one color to the next, whereby the individual mark, base area and color distribution are realized in different proportions. It is a kind of "language" that simultaneously fulfills an ornamental and expressive task.


The base material, paper, is cut with scissors to create the three-dimensional drawing structure. The way in which the color is distributed on the surface corresponds to the respective color character, whereby the materiality of the paper in these "scratches" enters into an intimate or loose connection with the color and its distribution. Overall, the result is an impression of lightness and affection. Here, too, material and ornamental elements have merged, albeit in a completely different way to Yalcindag's tondo. Here, a kind of inner temporality of the individual work emerges, created by individual signs in their connection with each other. The color creates this connection and the ornamental overall character. The viewer can "read" into it or linger in contemplation in front of the whole.

Kazem has been working with "Scratches on Paper" since 1990, whereby he also captures the significance of light and musical-tonal aspects. In his collection of Eastern and Western elements of art, the rational aspect of the artist's acting subjectivity dominates as the integrating force in which the unifying, communicative and cross-cultural ability of art is revealed. Art reveals itself as a language that encompasses and transcends the various dimensions of the phenomenal as well as touching the viewer and inviting them to reflect and contemplate. The joy that art knows how to create is at the same time the communication of a kind of happiness about the existence of man, the world and understanding. It is a utopian moment that is released here. 

"Orient and Occident can no longer be separated", stated Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1826. In his collection of poems "West-Eastern Divan", he based himself on the "Divan" by the Persian poet Hafez and, among other things, transformed poems by the latter into something new and unique. He praises the spirit that prevails in the Orient, as well as the emphasis on the sensual and vivid that he finds in Hafiz. From the East, he also recognizes the value of the West anew.


Eastern and Western elements are combined in the works of the two artists in this exhibition, in their artistic training and their biographies. Mohammed Kazem from the United Arab Emirates, who lives in Dubai and studied in Philadelphia, is closely connected to the European art world, among other things; Ekrem Yalcindag, born in Turkey, studied there and in Germany, lives here and there and has his workshop in Istanbul. Occident and Orient unite in the works of these artists and in their lives.


© Angelica Horn, Frankfurt am Main 2022

Kindly supported by Kulturamt Frankfurt.


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