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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.
Unable to compete with technological advances of today, many argue that the role of the calligrapher died in the late 1980s when word processors upgraded to include multiple fonts, and printers emerged as household items. However, many artists continue to master the art of calligraphy simply for the appreciation of its beauty.
In the Middle East, Egyptian Khodeir Al Borsaidy is known for being one of the most active and acclaimed keepers of the tradition. His works are known for their vibrancy, favouring the use of the Thuluth script for its energetic sense of motion.
In this self-titled exhibition at Zamalek’s Picasso Art Gallery, Borsaidy has exposed his works with a pioneering philosophy. As opposed to strictly adhering to traditional calligraphic fonts such as Nash, Tawqi and the aforementioned Thuluth, Borsaidy has set about to create his own cursive style. His approach is daring yet simple; at first, he paints a letter or word in a traditional font and then adds layers in a calligraphic style of his own. Combined with the use of geometric shapes and figures, the end results are a daring step forward in the art of calligraphy, without going far enough to be labelled as radical.
Hanging in all corners of the gallery, the paintings are unnamed since the inclusion of text gives them the privilege of speaking for themselves. Like all calligraphers, there is a heavy religious theme in many of his paintings including Quaranic verses, Prophetic Hadiths or the names of God. That said, there are also works dedicated to secular poetry.
At first glance, Borsaidy’s use of contrasting colour and variations between small and large canvas size are pleasing to the eye. He does not seclude himself to a colour scheme or black-and-white, which is not uncommon in the style of calligraphy. Instead, Khodeir presents a full splash of colours - including gold and silver - that differ in their intensity and variation between his works. There are instances where the use of repetition and motion in his paintings leads to a hypnotic effect. On closer inspection, however, the intricacy of the paintings begins to shine as the calligraphy is deciphered.
Despite many people’s disinterest towards calligraphy, the twists to the genre by Borsaidy make this exhibition worth a visit, and it will certainly prove engaging.