From 'Tank Girl' to exploring love: Nadine Hammam invites viewers into her artworks

Rowan El Shimi, Thursday 12 Dec 2013

Nadine Hammam's new series, currently on display at ArtTalks in Zamalek, explores romantic relationships and breakups using shattered mirrors and acrylic on canvas

'Forever' by Nadine Hammam in Arttalks. (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)
Nadine Hammam's fourth Solo Exhibition 'WHY' opened on 10 December in Zamalek's Arttalks and features her signature style of mixed media using multi-layered, strong-coloured acrylic paints and words spelled out in shattered mirrors on canvas.
Hammam uses the words "Love," "Forever," "Passion," "Yes," "Kiss," "Lust" and "Desire." According to the artist, these are elements and emotions in a relationship that once are broken, much like a mirror, cannot be fixed. They have to evolve into a new structure.
In 2012, the Egyptian artist had her last solo exhibition featuring two series: "Heartless" and "Got Love." They explored gender politics within romantic relationships and featured her controversial piece 'Tank Girl.' It caused quite a stir by featuring a woman in a red bra riding a phallic military tank.
Hammam has never been a superstitious type of person who avoids walking under ladders. She does not consider number 13 to be evil, nor does she believe catastrophes hit when a black cat walks by her or a mirror breaks. One day, a mirror in her room simply dropped, shattering into pieces. For some this would be considered a sign that something terrible was about to happen, for Hammam it served as an inspiration.
As the artist looked over the shattered pieces of glass on her floor, she sat on her couch, "Kanabet El-Afkar" (The ideas couch), as she calls it. It struck her to reconstruct this mirror and use the pieces in her project at the time.
Hammam chose acrylic and put many coats on the paintings. In the layers, she achieved solid colours. The unprimed canvas became a quality on its own and one can only assume how its texture evolved, changed and even completely disappeared under the thirty or more coats of paint the artist used.
The many coats and colours drip either on the outer layer or within the layers. Within them, fragmented pieces of mirrors spell out the words. As you look over the words, you see yourself reflected in pieces within the artwork. It almost forces you to go within the work and reflect on what the words mean in your own romantic relationship - or lack there-of.
"We're mirroring ourselves; conceptually it's an invitation for the viewer to be part of the artwork," Hammam told Ahram Online.
In doing so, Hammam challenges her own style of using nude sillouhettes on her paintings. Here, the viewers become the object of her work and see themselves within it.
inner 1
'LOVE' by Nadine Hammam (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)
"Love" is the dominant piece in the series. It stands out not only due to its large size, but also due to the way that paint drips on the canvas. It is somehow freer, and the colours of the painting (pink and orange) are brighter and more playful than the reds and blues of their counterparts.
Across the room lies "Forever," which also features an installation of broken mirrors stretching almost as far as the other wall, where "Love" lies, resembling a free stream.
"Love is an emotion, not a controlled thought," Hammam explained. "There is a direct relationship between 'Love' and 'Forever' but the latter needs a lot of work to happen."
"I want this forever, but I haven't found it yet. It was about exploration of the exterior, through this internal thought process or feelings," she said.
The lighting of the room, aimed directly at the paintings, reflects the words onto the hard-wood floors of the gallery space. But there was definitely a missed opportunity to play more with the mirrors of the works, where viewers could see the broken words painted by lights on the ceiling or floor or where one could walk all over "Love" or see "Lust" and "Desire" floating on top of them on the ceilings of the space.
Like Hammam's previous works, "WHY" continues to tackle gender issues and dives into the relationships between men and women.
'LUST' and 'DESIRE' by Nadine Hammam (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)
'WHY' runs through 15 January 2014
8 Al-Kamel Mohamed Street, Zamalek, Cairo
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