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Gallery Misr: 'Tank Girl' by Nadine Hammam
Every now and then you find an art exhibition in Cairo that is completely different from all the others, to the point where you can’t stop Tweeting about it or taking pictures to put up on Facebook. This is exactly what happened when we stepped into Gallery Misr where ‘Tank Girl’ by Nadine Hammam was on display.
The first thing that caught our eye was the blue banner covered in pink letters, with the words: ‘GO LOVE YOURSELF’. The pieces, by Cairo born and raised Hamman, are mixed-media and focus mostly on gender dynamics and investigate the relationship between the public versus the private, the external versus the internal, which are key to Middle Eastern society.
Tank Girl is about the most primitive search for attention, affection and passion. It highlights the elusive yet complex relation of love and sex; something that, in contemporary social context, ties into the traditional overbearing Egyptian society. Hammam’s paintings suppose a stronger, more independent and more elusive female persona.
From an aesthetic point of view, Hammam’s pieces are multilayered and her use of colours pops. One example shows a female figure with a glittery bunny in between her legs, with text reading ‘Just Love Me’. The same colours are used in most of the series; mainly primary colours red and blue. Her piece ‘The Girl with a Hole in Her Heart’ features a woman sitting down with condom wrappers in the place of her heart. One of the best pieces, carrying the title of the exhibition, is ‘Tank Girl’. A woman sits with her legs straddling an army tank with the phallic shaped turret of the tank in an erect position and seems to be ejaculating rats.
Another very nice piece shows a woman sitting in a seductive pose with ‘You said you wanted me, so here I am’ written on her body. Condom wrappers make another appearance in a piece with two women back to back with the text ‘I need a revolver more than I need you’. The word revolver is made out of the wrappers while some words have a small white line with the text ‘Love me please’. We were also quite impressed with the ‘For How Long Will You Love Me’, which shows the word ‘me’ between the legs of the female figure.
If you want to purchase a piece by Nadine Hamman, you will need a fair amount of money. Pieces are between $8,000 and $20,000. They might be relatively pricey but then again, it’s worth it. The exhibition is an absolute must see and kudos to Nadine Hamman for tackling this subject in such a brilliant way.
While many lament Zamalek as an island of sidewalk-encroaching loiterers, many forget that it is also home to some of Cairo’s most active and prolific galleries. One such example is often overshadowed by its more established peers: Ubuntu Art Gallery.
Filling the walls of the gallery right now is Refki Al Razzaz exhibition, The Spirit if Civilization – the name alone inspires ones imagination.
We imagined a number of paintings taking inspiration from Egyptian folklore, but what we found was a much larger amalgamation of historical civilizations throughout time, all embodied in oil paintings of different sizes.
In one painting, Al Razzaz draws on the Assyrian civilization, showing with a mythical creature with a raised tail drawn in the foreground, while the background consisted of shapes resembling an ancient language. Deeper into the background are palm trees painted with striking hot colours, contrasting the earthy colours used in the rest of the painting. While the description of the painting may sound erratic and unusual – it’s true that words can never really do art justice – the piece flows consistently as the artist creates a natural amalgamation of imagery, drawing on the symbolism, and at times ambiguity of, ancient iconography and folklore.
Some of Al Razzaz's smaller pieces are just as striking.
In other paintings, however, Al Razzaz deviates from this approach in slightly using more modern elements, like one piece which shows woman drawn in stripped down geometric form. It’s just one of the pieces that resembles Picasso’s cubist style, specifically in the way in Al Razzaz depicts the female form.
In one painting, three women are shown standing with arms linked as if in some kind of dance or skip and a turquoise figure that resembles a primitive drawing of an Ancient Egyptian boat.
Al Razzaz’s approach is an interesting and unique one that demands that you pay attention to its detailing. Said approach – from the moment of interpretation of inspiration or source, to its subsequent interpretation onto canvas – is like a metaphorical collage, but one that begins its fusion in the mind of the artist first and foremost. In theory, it could well have made for messy, disorientating pieces, but the end result is, in fact, is a graceful and effortless collection of work.