ODYSSEUS: Tarek Al-Ghoussein

22 March - 5 May 2021

The Third Line is pleased to present Tarek Al-Ghoussein’s fourth solo exhibition in its Gallery II. Odysseus also proudly debuts the gallery’s series of online exhibitions taking place on its new website. The show explores a selection of new works from his ongoing series Odysseus where Al-Ghoussein sets out to document a number of islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi where he resides.

Much like Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s epic poem of the Odyssey, Al-Ghoussein’s work is as much about the journey as it is about the final images.


His fascination with the sheer existence of the islands sparked his curiosity to start documenting them back in 2015. Out of the 215 Islands, Al-Ghoussein visited and photographed approximately 30 so far. His pursuit of a complete survey has been challenged by gaps in public information about the islands, access restrictions, and most notably pending permission requests. While he remains hopeful the project can find a path to completion, like the odyssey, the journey is much longer than expected.

Skillfully employing a strong sense of surrealism with their dreamlike color spectrum and whimsical compositions, the world of Al-Ghoussein is at once both delightful and disquieting. Raising more questions than providing answers, the photographs lack specific geographical signifiers, despite being shot in real places. The playful and often absurd interaction between the artist and these dreamscapes leads the viewers to question the islands’ ambiguous reality, and perhaps existence. Gradually fading from his own consciousness, Al-Ghoussein chose to omit the islands completely from some of the images, where he can be seen alone at sea, until even himself is absent from the picture perhaps pondering his own place, as an artist, or more significantly as an Abu Dhabi resident, in relation to the geopolitical landscape of the islands.

Much like Odysseus’s story was about his homecoming as much as his journey, a larger significance is placed on the artist choosing to persistently return and continue documenting the remaining islands despite the setbacks. Already six years in the making, one is then left to wonder whether Al-Ghoussein’s journey will end up being longer than Odysseus’s ten-year Journey.


Text by Dina Ibrahim

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