Monday, August 18, 2008

Exhibition: Lure of the East

Financial Times, UK

Time is running out if you want to visit this exhibition at the Tate, in London U.K., which closes on 31st August 2008:

A hookah casts whirls of smoke in the half-light streaming through the wooden mashrabiyya in Arthur Melville's "Arab Interior". Light filters as deliciously, dreamily, through the latticed screens in Frank Dillon's Cairo painting "A Room in the Female Quarters of the House of Sheikh al-Sadat". A scribe sits absorbed, rapt in his spiritual life, in John Frederick Lewis's "Commentator on the Koran". The sun sets on an ancient, monumental, still scene in David Roberts's "Ruins of the Great Temple of Karnak", and illuminates a lurid phantasmagorical desert drama in Holman Hunt's "The Scapegoat".

Arresting images of timeless pleasures and unchanging landscapes or politically charged works which misrepresent the Middle East as a place of exacerbated sensuality, decadence and an inability to keep up with the present? Since Edward Said's book Orientalism was published 30 years ago, it has become impossible to enjoy popular Victorian images of the Orient without debate about western cultural imperialism shrieking in the background. War in Iraq, terror in America and Europe, recent panicky attempts to understand Islamic culture, have all turned these paintings into art history's equivalent of hand grenades.

See the above page for the full story.

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