Is there a link between dentistry and art? Those dental surgeons who transform their patient’s mouths could probably claim that they are both artists and technicians, while, when I lived in Edinburgh many years ago, a neighbour who was a Professor in Restorative Dentistry had, as his hobby, the creation of beautiful carved timber furniture, musical instruments and other objects.
When Sara Shakeel (born 1989) failed her final year in Dental School, rather than resit, she decided to become an artist. You can imagine the reaction of her friends and family in changing from such a good profession to something like art! Based in Islamabad, Pakistan, Shakeel is best known for her collages and work using glitter and crystals which feature in her Instagram feed, including her #glitterstretchmarks movement.
Normally, the tall full-height windows of NOW Gallery in North Greenwich connect art exhibitions with the developing area outside. Today, however, things are different. No white walls here – the gallery has gone for black, encasing Sara Shakeel’s first exhibition in the UK in black curtains, with just a hint as you enter the gallery of what is inside. Shakeel has taken the dinner table, which used to be a ritual that brought families together at least once in the day and both brought it up-to-date with a meal for six that combines tradition in the form of candlesticks with contemporary food (hamburger and fries), while everything is interwoven with glass crystals so that it glitters and shines as you walk round.
Winner of NOW Gallery’s Young Artist Commission for rising talent in visual arts and illustration, her ‘The Great Supper’ could be said to have many meanings. One, as described by the artist herself, is the dinner table as a place for family meals, for decision-making, for dreaming and for creativity. Another, could be a reflection on how the dinner table has become a luxury, with modern apartments being built nearby the gallery having little space for such things, and also a dream for many in a 21st century society with many single mothers and families affected by divorce, illness, political strife and the like.
A great first exhibition – it is hoped that we will see more of her work in the UK.