Diana Al-Hadid once described her work as “impossible architecture”, created by embracing her gut instinct and seeing where it takes her. The Brooklyn based, Syrian born artist’s work can be difficult to describe, monumental and ethereal mixed media works with a myriad of references throughout art history: her captivating installations, sculptures and paintings feature elements of figures from the Renaissance and classical imagery, forms that appear to be disintegrating into a “dripping” tower.
Much of Al-Hadid’s work starts with allowing the material to do what it wants to do, but one thing that she can’t control is gravity. Where architecture has an almost spiritual presence in the classical paintings that she admires, her sculptures must obey the law of physics. It is a challenge that she rebels against in her suspended installations.
Diana Al-Hadid, “Phantom Limb”
One of Al-Hadid’s most recent works “Phantom Limb”, currently showing at the NYUAD Art Gallery in Abu Dabi, captures the visceral quality of her art. It is a giant cascading piece of primarily polymer gypsum, wood and steel, representing the sensation of muscle memory (“Phantom Limb” is a term referring to the feeling that a missing arm or leg is still present, and able to move). As the piece appears to rise into the air like a mystical column from limb-less figures, it challenges our perceptions of its weight and improbable lightness.
Diana Al-Hadid, “Phantom Limb” detail
There are numerous accounts of the artist online where she describes the great lengths that are taken to get her massive work “off the ground”; suspending her art immediately makes its mass and the space around it to command more attention, and takes the viewer into a fantasy world where the rules can be broken. “I am not trying to discover who I am through my work,” she says. “I am exploring those things that make less sense to me, where there is something new to discover.”