Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist

  • In the slideshow, all images taken by Anna Seaman in January 2018 in Hassan Sharif: I am the Single Work Artist exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation

It is only when you step foot into the massive Hassan Sharif's retrospective at Sharjah Art Foundation that the significance of the title is underlined. I Am The Single Work Artist is a vast exhibition, taking over all the art spaces of the foundation and spilling over into Bait Al Serkal. For those who have never been, that is at least room for seven big solo exhibitions and that is not counting the large installations also placed in public areas. Yet, as diverse and large as Sharif's oeuvre was, he insisted that he was a "single work artist", meaning that he had only one focal point and spent his entire life working towards it. 

Traversing the many halls of the exhibitions, which are named after further snippets of the artist's speech: Performance is good; I'm loyal to colour; ... so I created a semi system; I'm an object maker - the sheer quantity of the work Sharif produced is clear, as is his dedication to his practice. My personal favourites, the semi systems and the colour room contain some of his most famous work. A large and looming mound of plastic slippers summarises his obsession with consumerism and how the world around him seemed to go crazy as mass-production took over our lives and created an insatiable need. His semi systems acknowledge the fluidity of seemingly rigid structures in his social and political surroundings and also reveal his rebellious side: Hassan certainly followed his own rules.

A special highlight of the entire show, curated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, is the reconstruction of Hassan's studio. I was lucky enough to visit him at his home atelier and walking into that room, into which the desk, sketchbooks, piles of detritus / artworks in preparation and even cigarettes and ashtray were transplanted straight from his home, was a wonderful moment of reflection and remembrance of a life well lived and a practice to be treasured long into the future.