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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.
New art has been aplenty across Cairo this month, with the city’s galleries resuming normal service after the summer. Zamalek Art Gallery – boasting two spaces these days – has kicked off the season with a huge retrospective of the work of famed Egyptian artist, Mohie El Din Hussein – a man that is considered one of the best sculptors of his kind in Egypt.
The exhibition in itself is unique in that it hosts such a large collection of Hussein’s sculpting work – it’s so extensive, in fact, that it takes up both of the galleries separate halls, which usually host separate exhibitions. The materials used range between bronze to ceramics, meaning that there’s plenty of variations in Hussein’s pieces – in fact, some of the pieces are repeated, but in different materials. One such example is an abstract sculpture depicting an owl and another of a frog.
The most interesting material Hussein uses, however, is basic fire brick. Much of the pieces that use It are again, abstract human figures, with one of the standout pieces including a female face, painted in a striking green. Hussein’s pottery work has appeared in many a gallery and is a big part of this exhibition. Some of the pieces are atypical and unremarkable in form, relying more on colour, with an orange, blue and white one showing a set of simple, rural houses catching our eye.
Some of the more untraditionally-shaped pottery pieces are just as striking in colour, with one in particular stand out; the slanted piece fades between blue, olive green and orange.
The exhibition also holds a large number of murals, some of which are done over ceramics, while others see Hussein take a collage-like approach to their formation. Many of them are inspired by nature in its widest of meanings and colour, once again, plays a huge part in them.
Overall, the exhibition achieves its goal in paying homage to Hussein as one of the most influential and versatile contemporary artists in Egypt. If one needed any further proof, look to the fact that New York’s Everson Ceramic Museum house some of his work, as does Bibliotheca Alexandria – recognition owed to his innovative abstract expressionist approach.
(Photos: Zamalek Art Gallery/Facebook)