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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.
Over the years, Safar Khan Art Gallery in Zamalek has featured exhibitions by some of the top artists on the contemporary visual arts scene like Hussein Fawzy, Farouk Hosny and Ahmed Nawar to name a few. Art in Egypt as a community has become more and more inclusive, but the gallery has been able to guarantee a certain quality, and even prestige, of visual art thanks to their selections.
Abdel Salam Eid was born in 1943 in Alexandria and is a professor of Photography in the Fine Arts faculty at Alexandria University. While he has received several national and international accolades for his work in photography, this particular exhibition featured the use of many unusual mediums and materials – rope and plastic forks are two of the most peculiar.
The masterpiece of the exhibition is placed close to the entrance, to the right, and also serves as the subject of the exhibition’s promotional poster. Combining photography, mosaics, and 3D sculptures of birds in the centre, the piece captures the artist’s methodology quite aptly.
But Eid’s interesting approach doesn’t end with the unusual materials he employs, as he uses them in unusual ways, too. In another, much larger, piece, the mosaic element sees Eid use the tiles face down, revealing the rough, corrugated backside. The tiles were sliced to tiny pieces and then reassembled to form interlocking geometric patterns reminiscent of Islamic motifs. To contrast the ceramic mosaic tiles, he uses blue glass towards the top which makes the entire piece pop with colour.
One can’t help but be impressed by Eid’s vision in utilising simple, domestic materials available in our. The use of rope in particular demands a closer look; while it looks haphazard, closer inspection reveals well studied interlocking patterns. He achieves a strange harmony between different textures like pieces of cloth, wood and even metal parts to form a complete composition.
Aside from collages and different textures, the Ecoline paintings – similar to watercolours, but denser and closer to coloured ink with much more vibrant colours – also particularly eye-catching. The paintings reveal many forms of intersecting colours open to interpretation.
Whether you’re a fan of contemporary art with the patience to observe and find an explanation in a painting or not, Abdel Salah Eid’s unique approach has made for an endlessly fascinating collection.