The Nasher’s Communication Director Lucia Simek caught up with Diana recently and chatted about this most recent work, as well as what’s up next for the artist.
This year, the artist Diana Al-Hadid was named in Apollo magazine’s inaugural “40 under 40” American issue which highlighted “young stars…set to continue pushing artistic boundaries.” Since her Sightings exhibition here at the Nasher in 2011, Al-Hadid has done exactly that with a materially various and ingenious body of work that plumbs the vocabularies of ancient architecture, paintings and textiles, as well as classical mythology and literature. Her sculptures often reference ruins and teem with movement, even as the plaster and paint of which they’re made are hardened and stiff. Recently, she has begun a series of paintings that deploy some of her casting methods to make surfaces that are as ethereal as lace but as formidable as her sculptural works.
Lucia Simek: For your most recent show at OHWOW gallery in L.A., you exhibited a series of paintings that occupied space both on the walls and extended from them, almost like curtains. Can you tell us a bit about these works and how they relate to your interest in architectural forms and historical motifs? Are the paintings a direction you'll continue to explore?
Diana Al-Hadid: The installation I made for Moran Bondaroff Gallery (previously OHWOW gallery), called Smoke Screen, was the first inset panel I made that a person could walk through rather than around. It evenly divided the space in the floorplan, with the large arching cavity peaked about 10 feet high, reaching the bottom of the truss in the ceiling a little left of center. The opening allowed passage to the back of the gallery, and consequently removed the bulk of the image in the work, in a sense denying the viewer the main part of the narrative but allowing access to other narratives in the space. I like your suggestion that it could be thought of almost like a curtain. In fact, I see a relationship between my other panels (and especially this particular work) with tapestry and weaving, not only because tapestry has so often inspired the imagery, but also because the meticulous process in which the image is reinforced is perhaps somewhere between woven fabric and painted fresco. The small painted marks are reinforced little by little and create a large plane that, as you say, becomes a kind of architectural form--an archway, a passageway, a dividing wall. The process is additive but the form in the end appears to be subtractive or thinning. The imagery is a combination of landscapes and figures drawn from, or cut and pasted from various historical works. In the end, the source material for my panels fades away behind the many layers of the process. I have been making these panels in the past few years alongside my sculptures and drawings and have found them to be a natural fit between the two. I imagine I'll continue to make them as long as they are teaching me something, just as I continue to make drawings and sculptures.
LS: Are there any techniques you've landed upon recently in the studio that are steering your work in an exciting direction?
DA-H: Yes, I'm exploring materials and processes (outside of strictly metal casting) that will allow me to make work outdoors. I'm very hopeful about this new direction.
LS: We know you're an avid reader of the classics, both in terms of books and art work. Are you reading or looking at anything right now that is affecting how you make work?
DA-H: I have been looking a lot at tapestry recently, particularly millefleur tapestries. I visited the Cloisters to see the unicorn tapestries again recently. The incredibly rich detail of floral growth creates grids and beautiful irregular natural forms that have been surfacing in my most recent panels.