Dana Awartani’s (Saudi-Palestinian b. 1987, Jeddah, KSA, where she lives and works) oeuvre aspires for the revival of traditional geometry and historical modes of making through crafts and artisanal practices which are enacted in the contemporary. A multitude of methods and mediums such as performances, intricate manuscript illumination, parquetry, ceramics, and embroidery, though with the constant base of her own pigments’ preparation, come to reinforce her concept. Her practice stands within deconstruction, reinterpretation and repetition of a sign system, revealing immutable patterns with the intention of demonstrating the structure of meaning.
Works such as And Your Lord You Should Glorify (2016) – a palindromic piece – instigate a literal “running backwards” leading the viewer from their present, into the heart of the eternal and hermetic order. The palindromes are part of an ongoing direction, experimenting with the development of codes. The artist obscures and elucidates interior meanings, converting each letter of a sentence into their numerical value using the Abjadia system. Kaleidoscope-like, she maps unity as a fundamental Islamic principle – that of ‘tawhid’.
Traditionally trained at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, she received her Masters after her BA at Central Saint Martins. She is currently furthering her practice and commitment to preservation of the Islamic illuminations skills through the completion of an ‘Ijaza’ certificate, in order to be eligible to transmit these skills.
Awartani’s recent group exhibitions include: Zamakan, Ithra, Dammam, KSA (2019); Unsettlement, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia (2018); Shift, The Mosaic Room, London, UK (2017); Cities of Conviction, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City, USA (2017); Exhibition 1, Institute of Arab & Islamic Art, New York, USA (2017); 21,39 Jeddah Arts (2017); Take Me [I’m Yours], Jewish Museum, New York (2016); Rhizoma at Edge of Arabia, Venice Biennale (2013); and Show of Faith, Katara Art Center, Qatar (2013). She participated in the Rabat Biennale, Morocco (2019), Sesc_Videobrasil Biennale, Sao Paolo, Brazil (2019), the Jakarta Biennale, Indonesia (2017), the Marrakech Biennale, Morocco (2016), the Yinchuan Biennale, China (2016), and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2016).
Her solo exhibitions include: The Silence Between Us, curated by Laura Metzler, at Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE. (2018); Detroit Affinities: Dana Awartani, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit (2017); and The Hidden Qualities of Quantities, Athr, Jeddah (2015).
Awartani’s work is in the collections of the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, The Greenbox Museum, The British Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum, The Guggenheim Museum, among others.
Dana Awartani, Where The Dwellers Lay, installation view, Desert X AlUla 2022, courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber