Art reviews: Hiwa K at Hospitalfield, Arbroath | Richard Wright at Modern Institute, Glasgow

One of the most talked about works at the Venice Biennale in 2015, Nazhad and the Bell by the Iraqi artist Hiwa K gets its first UK showing here, ­having been spotted by the team from Hospitalfield who curated Graham Fagen's ­Biennale show for the same year. Two films run side by side: in Nazhad's scrap yard in Northern Iraq, old armaments are melted down to make metal ingots; in Northern Italy, these same ingots are used to make a beautiful, decorated bell. Even shown without the bell itself '“ which is considered too fragile to transport '“ the work is full of resonances.
Installation shot of Nazhad and The Bell by Hiwa K, Hospitalfield, ArbroathInstallation shot of Nazhad and The Bell by Hiwa K, Hospitalfield, Arbroath
Installation shot of Nazhad and The Bell by Hiwa K, Hospitalfield, Arbroath

Hiwa K: Nazhad and the Bell ****

Hospitalfield, Arbroath

Modern Institute, Airds Lane, Glasgow

Hiwa K, who came from Kurdish Northern Iraq to Europe as a refugee 21 years ago and now lives in Germany, has done a contemporary take on swords-into-ploughshares. He has taken the ­weapons of war and made them into a peaceful symbol of community and remembrance.

Both films celebrate craftsmanship: the bell-makers ­follow centuries-old techniques, and Nazhad and his men are craftsmen too: they know a Russian-made ­warhead from an Italian one, and the specific ways each one can be dismantled safely.

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Their yard is a microcosm of the detritus of the international arms trade, the final ­destination for bullets, ­grenades and armoured ­vehicles from more than 30 years of Middle Eastern wars. They know all too well that weapons from the same ­factory can end up on both sides of the same conflict.

Hiwa K show us all this without ever being didactic. His films, occupying a wood ­panelled room in a house which is itself a paean to craftsmanship, do what art at its best can do: speak truth and, along with that, offer a kind of transformation.

Meanwhile, there was a rare chance to see work by Richard Wright at the Modern Institute in Glasgow. Best known for murals, Wright, who won the Turner Prize in 2009, also ­created a wrap-around wall painting for the partially ­renovated building in Airds Lane, but it seems garish compared with the ­subtlety of the works inside.

The permanent work in the show is a skylight, made to a complex pattern using leading and handmade blown glass. On a bright day, it casts constantly shifting patterns of shadows across the room, the ultimate in ephemeral art.

The patterns are echoed in some of the works on paper, which range widely in style: geometric, ­arabesque, inspired by topography and astronomy; at least one comes perilously close to being a landscape painting. A range of his books displayed on a long table demonstrate his broad reference points: poetry, glass designs, spirituality, art history.

Wright is not an artist who hands the viewer a manual for decoding his work, and there is none here.

But there are particular ­qualities on display: a deep sensitivity in responding to the space; an attention to detail; a valuing of draftsmanship.

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These works are precise and meticulous, various and ­enigmatic. If they don’t explain what his art is about, they do at least remind us that it is well worth paying attention to.

Hiwa K until 16 September; Richard Wright run ended.

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