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 diŽering 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

 ?? ?? Nugaduwa 4 (detail), 2020, oil on wood, set of 2, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai
Nugaduwa 4 (detail), 2020, oil on wood, set of 2, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Grey Noise, Dubai

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