University of Sussex
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Contemporary, emigrant, Middle Eastern art

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:57 authored by Andrew John Withey
The thesis focuses on those artists who have emigrated from their Middle East homelands since the middle of the Twentieth Century. The first Chapter proposes that the artists form an identifiable group, through the use of common themes deriving from their heritage. The second chapter debates if Post-Colonial theories of alienation, hybridity and ‘third space’ are useful concepts and tools for these artists. The last chapter discusses the different approaches to the concept of universalism, which is frequently used in the presentations of the work of these artists. Chapter One identifies the themes of calligraphy, literature, nostalgia/longing and politics which are common to the group of artists. These themes demonstrate a clear cultural memory, with each artist using one or more of these characteristics. Chapter Two questions the usefulness and relevance of Post-Colonial concepts of alienation, hybridity and ‘third spaces’ in the analysis of the artists’ work. The individuality and complexity of the artists, their lack of clear alienation from either or both of East and West and the absence of predictability in their output makes it difficult yo apply these concepts as analytical tools. The third chapter shows the way in which contemporary Middle Eastern art has taken over from the earlier, Western based, Orientalism. The resulting work has frequently attracted the label of Universalism but this term has different connotations for Western viewers and curators compared to the Middle Eastern artists and their patrons. The former results in differentiation, the latter claims to transcend boundaries and geographies. The Conclusion, thereafter, draws together the discussions and attempts to position Middle Eastern art within the current international art scene, rather than as an ‘other’ which is outside a usually Western mainstream. The Middle East expatriates are seen as part of a growing but incomplete globalism, within which localism can co-exist.


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