Galleries in lockdown: visiting virtual exhibits

Coronavirus has certainly had a devastating impact on the art scenes worldwide, with galleries having to close their doors for months at a time. The world has had to quickly adapt, and one way that art can still be communicated is virtually. Many museums worldwide have online galleries which are free to view. They enable you to experience their art in a sequence which is thematically cohesive and often provide snippets of information, which aids the viewing experience. Such online exhibits can be accessed on Google Arts and Culture. 

One advantage of this is its accessibility. Anyone with a computer can experience exhibits from all around the world and connect to other cultures. I spent some time exploring the ‘Aspects in Photography’ online exhibit from the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP), situated in Shuwaikh Industrial, Kuwait. 

It starts with the hauntingly effective “The Woes of Happiness” by Mohammed AlKouh, which features two women in full burkas playing traditional musical instruments. The work focuses on the integral theme of dreams. AlKouh says of his work: “I wanted to recreate my dreams by making a parallel universe where I can be here and there at the same time. I wanted to revel in the layers of the human soul. I didn’t just want to take pictures, I wanted to express a feeling beyond the photograph.”

You are able to zoom in and out of each picture in the gallery to take them in from different perspectives. There are also virtual pop-ups with bite size pieces of relevant information about the respective works.  

The next piece was titled “One Eye on You” by photographer Mohammed Khorshed, which was a personal favourite for me. It is a photograph of an owl shielding itself with its wings. Its bright orange eye is central to the frame. The bird contorts itself into a spherical position and its feathers create something of an optical illusion, making it difficult for the viewer to discern specific body parts. It’s a piece that you can certainly spend a prolonged period watching, as it has a way of capturing your imagination. Animal photography is a major part of this exhibition. It also features the striking “Egret Hunter” by Maitham Almisry and “Lines” by Majed Alzaabi, which depicts a zebra’s body.

There are also powerful political pieces relating to Arab issues, such as “Return to Gaza” by Samer Mohdad, which has a specific emphasis on presenting a different side of the story than the narratives circulating in the media. This is certainly an exhibition which caters to all tastes and its collection of profound artworks will be sure to leave a lasting impact on its viewers. 

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Jake Walker-Charles

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November 2021
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