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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.
When it comes to artistic variety, Zamalek’s Art Corner never fails to deliver, particularly in its current group exhibition, Ta7ya Masr, which includes a large collection of paintings by some of Egypt’s most talented artists, each showing a variety of techniques and ideas. While the exhibition has been held to commemorate the New Suez Canal, it doesn’t exclusively feature elements of patriotism and explores much more.
Some people say that art should evoke some kind of feeling or emotion from the viewer, even if it a negative one. In the first collection of paintings by Mohamed Tamam, the process and technique are clear too see; thick layers of dark blues and vivid yellows are applied by a palette knife to create a heavy pasted effect. The subject is unclear, though the first piece shows a face with red eyes and open-mouth, below it a human body lying down and could perhaps represent a death; it appears figurative, scenic and expressive.
Our favourite of them all had to be the three gigantesque paintings by Fathi Ali whose focus is on the darker side of life; in his first painting, he portrays a group of people who appear to be Egyptian from their long gallabeyas and head scarves. Three of them have faces that portray a feeling of obscurity and confusion through the dripping marks and empty eyes, though the most disturbing part is the red face with the horns who clearly represents Satan and the presence of evil being among us.
In the next room there are two more paintings by Fathi Ali focusing also on a darker, but more topical, side of life – terrorism, particularly that of ISIS. The pieces show figures in the bright orange jumpsuits we have all come to despair at, with one showing not only the violence but also the sadness left behind as a distraught mother holds up a photograph of her son, alluding to the execution of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya in February this year.
Testament to the sheer and boundless variety of work in the exhibition, one of the other collections that catch the eye are some cartoon strips and paintings looking at Egyptian heritage; one is a beautiful rural painting by Eman Hakim of an old lady in a scarf on a background of mixed countryside scenes. The colours are soft greens, blues and yellows creating a relaxed and positive scene.
Though the gallery space is quite small, Art Corner’s latest exhibition manages to bring together a collection rich in variety, style, colours and subjects, despite its name.