The National profiles artist Mohamed Kanoo:
Pop art Arab-style is what Kanoo is good at. A longtime fan of Andy Warhol, his first attempt at art, in 1989, in the spirit of “how difficult can it be?”, was a combination of the polarised colour palettes of Warhol and the giant projections of Roy Lichtenstein.
“I liked Andy Warhol, I liked his style, so it was a question of how do I recreate that?” explains Kanoo. “Andy Warhol had this silkscreen process, but I could not get the materials here, and I said I have to have fun with this and create it myself. And I found Roy Lichtenstein who took these comic books and then projected them, drew them and painted them, and I said, well I can do that. So I merged the two and ended up with Andy Warhol style but hand-painted.” [ . . . ]
Influenced by the likes of Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider or the massive minimalist sculptures of Richard Serra, the huge installation was designed on a scale that would make it worth taking to the galleries of the world, spreading the information that the Arabic world does, indeed, have a contemporary art scene. Kanoo cites the Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin, The Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheims of New York and Bilbao as the places where he would like to see his work displayed. [ . . . ]
This hybrid art that is a mix of contemporary western style and Arabic ideas is, Kanoo insists, part of the global history of art, just the latest movement in a long tradition of East-meets-West visual culture, and he talks knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the mutual influence of Constantinople and Venice before the Renaissance, of Andalucian Spain, of Baghdad, destroyed by the Mongol invasion, the Golden Horde. “It’s like any art,” he says. “The tradition of art history builds on the predecessor. What contemporary Arab art is doing is simply building on the foundations of creating art that exists all over the world but infusing it with an Arab or Islamic culture.”
Squaring the Circle (The National)