ďIt comes from my infatuation with the place, and from an importance to share elements of our (Arab and Muslim) culture on a wider scaleĒ, Alkandari told me.
I asked him if it was his intention to be quite so obscure with regard to revealing the subject of the show prior to the event. ďSure, the invitation was intended to be discreet. The subject matter can bring to the surface a lot of preconceived notions, and I wanted people to attend and view the work with an open mind,Ē he said.
As a qualified, although not currently practising architect (ďIíve moved on to many other things in the meantimeĒ), Alkandari approached this as much from an architectural standpoint as from an artistic view.
ďAt the end of the day itís an exhibit, itís expressive. Itís not any fixed medium and canít be rigidly defined in terms of being architecture or installation. In terms of its expressiveness there are several points Iím trying to make - there are several lines. This is basically an orchestration of several different mediums and materials - combined with a very specific use of the space. What Iím creating here is a collective experience of works, and most importantly a collective experience for peopleĒ.
And this is Alkandariís oeuvre. He revels in putting on a show. Not so much an artist - heís perhaps more a curator. In 2004 he and artist sister Ghadah put together a show at Kuwaitís ĎLife Centerí where they re-expressed much of their latent Arabic culture, but in a modern form. For him it is important that these cultural elements are expressed by those familiar with, and also of, the culture themselves. ďSans Style is an extension of this,Ē he insists.
The exhibition included two tall black concrete-block towers which provided the gateway to the show. Unmistakable in their filial relationship to the Kabaía in Mecca, they invited engagement from the viewer. Indeed, as encouragement towards a tactile as well as cerebral engagement, the towers emitted a low frequency vibration which only became apparent through though laying a hand on the work. Keen to break concepts - one being Ďnever touch the art at an exhibitioní - Alkandari actively engaged and challenged his viewers with all elements of the show.
ďThe ultimate ambition of this show is to demonstrate to people they can trust the fact that when they come they will see a show that is so very different to seeing an image in a book, or seeing a painting at a friendís houseĒ.
ĎSans Style - An Archetypal Visioní is very much Alkandariís self-styled work. He concedes that this need not always be the case. ďHopefully this exhibition will evolve into further shows, possibly involving other artists. I purposely chose the Kabaía as the focus because of what it embodies and because of how people relate to it. There is also intrigue about it from those who donít know quite what it represents - non-Muslims for example, who make up the majority of the worldís peopleĒ.
Alkandari is non-judgemental, but the allusion towards a pilgrimage is unmistakable. The movement of the people, although unpredictable, is resonant of the movement of pilgrims. There is an informative, enlightening part to the show involving a video-installation describing a brief history of the Kabaía.
Without doubt, Tareq Alkandari is a man of deep contemplation and introspection. That he is also a man capable of sharing his revelations is unquestioned. Indeed, there is a compulsion to share, and in the most vivid and accomplished of manners.
One hopes that the exhibition will travel. Such is the strength and resonance generated by its three days at The Sultan Gallery that the show now demands a wider international audience. ĎSans Style - An Archetypal Visioní will carry even greater value when it is seen at galleries further flung than those across the Arab world.
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #14 June.09