Muhanned Cader Nightscapes 2019–2021
Grey Noise, Dubai 15 September – 1 November
In Cader’s first solo exhibition in Dubai, dawn and dusk exist on the same perspectival plane. His series of seductive yet understated paintings are based on photographs of the environment around Nugaduwa, Sri Lanka, taken from the vantage point of his apartment. If they appear as a form of pastoral nostalgia, or a throwback to the painterly sublime, Cader defamiliarises that visual trope by painting the landscapes with geomorphic edges inside each smallscale canvas, so they seem unmoored from nineteenth-century landscape painting conventions and colonial frames.
Dots of light glimmer in the distance of his changing nightscapes, appearing elusive against the opacity of the skies. Although Cader paints from photographs, he references the failure of documentation by explaining that he often looks out with his naked eye in order to render intensity in his work. His subject matter is repetitive, and while he attempts to capture a nocturnal panorama seemingly devoid of politics, his work could be just as easily alluding to the murkiness of unseen violence, of representing representation.
Cader, who studied under the Chicago Imagists at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is primarily a draughtsman with a background in graphic design. This becomes evident in Let Sleeping Villages Sleep (2021), a leporello made of the aforementioned source photographs, which are fragmented, forming a collage of childlike wave and cloud forms. Parts of a whole, they can be pieced together front-toback and back-to-front in a continuous process.
Working across an expanded field that links painting to photography, each medium is a derivation of the other, minimising our perceptions of space and scale. In these diering forms, Cader’s work is as much about translation as it is about abstraction. Apart from their titles, his works don’t give away their location. It’s as if he is making a statement on anonymity, with a formalism that belies what’s at stake: a looking into darkness that’s a kind of looking away, especially if you consider that his first Nightscapes (1999), a series of nocturnal Bolgoda Lake views, were done during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Then, as now, the landscape – with its wars, and changing political backdrops – is silenced in a dark reservoir where totality cannot be grasped. Nadine Khalil