“There are things out there that we cannot grasp, that we have no control over. This is a way of doing something that matters here and now to people who are involved in the migration horror that exists in Europe at the moment.”
Nicol Savinetti is describing what drove her to launch Immigrant Art – a platform for bringing migrant artists into the public realm in Denmark – and Artival, a week-long showcase of migrant art at venues around Copenhagen.
Savinetti is British born and has lived in Denmark for 16 years. After finishing a PhD in social policy and migration last year, she was looking to develop on her theoretical foundation and work with vulnerable groups. After being introduced to the work of several Syrian artists in Denmark, and discovering that they weren’t being exhibited, she set up Immigrant Art.
“As I met more artists, it became apparent that there was a need for networks specifically for immigrant artists in Denmark,” Savinetti says.
“Good artists are not necessarily good networkers. Immigrant Art is about showcasing the work of artists who might not have the opportunity to get out there otherwise, and create a network with that in mind.”
Crucially, Immigrant Art’s steering group includes both Danes and non-Danes. According to Savinetti, one of the platform’s aims is to use art as “the meeting point for the immigrant and the Dane, see what happens when they meet and, in a sense, figure out why the integration project doesn’t work very well in Denmark”.
Although Artival’s programme is mixed, increasing the exposure of migrant art in Denmark is an important aspect of the festival. Changing the perception of immigrants is another.
“People get scared when they get ‘immigrants’ shoved in their face,” Savinetti says.
But how much does the art reflect the migrant crisis? Savinetti says she put out an open call to artists in Denmark and asked them to only send their best work, not necessarily art that reflected their experience of migration. Still, some art on the programme is explicit in its depiction of the crisis. Syrian artist Saif Aldeen Tahhan’s latest work, ‘Syria Go’, mimics the augmented-reality game Pokémon Go to highlight the plight of children in Syria.
“Art is something that’s accessible to everyone, something that’s with us every day, whether we like it or not,” Savinetti says.
“And it’s the perfect medium to try to speak to people who speak different languages and can’t understand each other. It’s a wonderful way of breaking down those barriers.” M
A teddy bear smiles at you from a mobile screen. In the background you discover a casualty site in a street in war torn Syria. Syrian artist Saif Aldeen Tahhan has stunned the world with his series ’Syria Go’ with references to the global gaming trend Pokemon Go and a reminder of everyday life in Syria. In his series ‘Think of Syrian Children’, Saif Aldeen Tahhan continues his reflections on refugee children’s longing for every day life. With simple drawings of houses, schools and toys on photos with children fleeing from war, he spells out the contrast between peace and war.
WHAT: Photographic exhibition
WHERE: Vanløse Kulturstationen, Frode Jakobsens Plads 4, 1., 2720 Vanløse
WHEN: Vanløse library, Monday to Sunday 08.00-22.00 until 30 October
Mixed Media Exhibition at Råhuset
What: Photographic and animation art. Works by Bente Jæger (Norway), Angelique Sanossian (Armenian/Syrian), Martin Lønstrup Esquives (Sweden), Mayra Navarrete (El Salvador), Wael Toubaji (Syria)
Where: Råhuset, Onkel Dannys Plads. 7, 1711 Copenhagen Vesterbro
When: Opening times: 30 September and 7 October 13.00 – 17.00, 1– 2 October, 8-9 October 12.00 – 16.00.
Iranian artist Behnaz exhibits Danish-Iranian Fine Art, while French Josette Simon-Gestin’s paintings are inspired by the work of Henri Matisse, Meanwhile Indonesian artist Awang Behartawan uses graphic design and forms in his artwork. The three distinguished artists join forces in the group exhibition at Global Art Gallery in Vanløse, which shall be opened by the Indonesian Ambassador, Mr Muhammad Ibnu Said.
Italian artist Alessandra Sicuro spontaneously explores nature or a domestic world as primary sites of identity, love, human relations, and communication, while Sri Lankan Evangelene is strongly influenced by her mother who was a painter, and the wealth of art, culture and colour she associates with Asia. They are joined by Arsalan Chalabi, a Kurdish poet who began painting upon arrival in Denmark in 2016.
Syrian artist’s portrait of the Queen to be revealed
Denmark’s queen adorned with her Wikipedia definition in Arabic is one of the paintings created by Syrian photographer and graphic artist Saif Aldeen Tahhan that was instrumental in the founding of Immigrant Art. This piece will be exhibited together with water colour paintings by his partner and fellow artist, Zahr Miro, who also played a key role in the shaping of Immigrant Art. Zahr’s goal is to open her own art gallery in Aalborg, where she now lives. The works from Kathryn Kurtz from the US tie the exhibition together.