Art: No Borders, Bristol

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – in partnership with Arnolfini – is currently hosting No Borders, an exhibition of international art that explores global issues through localised viewpoints. The works are highly politicised and visually stunning. A quick search on a mobile phone connects us to contemporary life across the globe – No Borderschallenges the fact that is so easy it is for us to access far-flung locations whilst remaining unmoved by trauma. This removal of emotional feeling – and the fact that something so faraway can be held in our hands, out of context – is a powerful subject. We are all linked internationally and politically and this is what local perspectives are saying, through art.

Imran Qureshi | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
Imran Qureshi | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Pakastani artist Imran Qureshi paints with bloody handprints and traditional illustration techniques spattered in red to commentate on a tragedy experienced by his local community. And in the illustration below a figure wears a combination of traditional Pakastani dress and western accessories symbolising global interconnectedness and eroded cultural distinctions.

Imran Qureshi | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
Shahzia Sikander specialises in miniature painting, so-called for the use of minimum oxide pigment for colour. Here she depicts the entrapment of a labourer for the East India Company within the entanglements of British colonialism.

Shahzia Sikander | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
Tala Madani was born in Tehran and now works in New York. Her paintings are expressive and sensuous conceptualisations of distorted gender hierarchy. In Double Head Index (below) two subjects violently join to become one.

Tala Madani | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
As the exhibition continues South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa captures the reality of life for corn cutters in the country, but avoids making them into passive victims. Rather, they stand proud and tall and iconic despite exhaustion, and are to be idolised. Capitalism has strained and undermined traditional lifestyles. Similarly, Yto Barrada uses photography in a series called Sleepers to show us the perils emigration face in search of work within the continent of Africa.

Ai Weiwei is one of China’s earliest conceptual artists. He exhibits A Ton of Tea – a huge, compacted block of tea that filled the space with its aroma. And on passing through a set of doors you are confronted with a beautiful installation of wooden carved screens and colourful blinds by Haegue Yang. The aroma of the tea lingers nostalgically.

Pass through and you can take a seat in front of Akram Zaatari’s witty video installation. Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright is a commentary on instant messaging and flirtatious communication through social networking sites, it depicts an online chat-style conversation taking place on a typewriter. It transcends both time and space in an impossible way.

Akram Zaatari | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

This is one of the best exhibitions I have been to for a long time. And all set within the Bristol’s beautiful Museum & Art Gallery. Lose yourself in impact art. And think.

No Borders will be exhibited until 2nd June 2013. For more information visit:


  1. This is amazing. Beautifully written and great photos. Love the typewriter. Keep them coming Miss P xx


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