American artist Jim Denevan has created one of his most ambitious installations to date as part of Abu Dhabi's public art initiative, Manar Abu Dhabi. The vast, yet ephemeral, land art is made from 448 hand-formed pyramids and mounds laid out in 19 concentric circles. Together, they form a mesmerizing mandala pattern that invites the public inside to experience the design's effects.
Self-Similar began with a single circle drawn with a stick in the sand and progressed thanks to the help of local volunteers, as per Denevan's artistic practice. Situated on the city's Fahid Island, visitors approach the installation from an Iron Bridge that stretches across the Arabian Sea. From there, they are invited into the mandala, where they can marvel at the symmetry of the work and even observe it in its entirety from two observation mounds.
At night, Self-Similar takes on a different appearance thanks to more than a thousand solar lights that slowly turn on at dusk. These lights cast shadows off each pyramid and give the installation a warm, spectral feeling.
The piece is one of 35 site-specific artworks by local and international artists that will remain on display in Abu Dhabi until January 30, 2024. Inherently, Denevan's installation will transform through the period, as the elements exact their will on the earthen pyramids. The artistic choice to create ephemeral work that evolves overtime is deeply felt by Denevan. He says, “As I draw and shape these forms, an invitation is made, it emerges. An ‘entering into’ takes place. A centering. Scale, presence, human, and otherwise. External is internal and internal is external. That which expires and that which is eternal, a simultaneity, within and without.”