What does it mean to make art during a global pandemic? Does the role of art change after death, illness and isolation have rocked the world? Should artists make art to personally cope with the trauma, or should their work help release viewers from their pain?
Lina Osama embarks on a post-pandemic creative process with her recent series, “Becoming Vintage”, currently on display at Access art space. These canvases express nostalgia through 20th-century film and television stars, paired with comfortable domestic interiors illustrated in bright colours in acrylic paint. American stars like Madonna, Johnny Depp, and Marilyn Monroe cavort alongside Egyptian legends Samia Gamal, Souad Hosni, and Umm Kulthoum.
Clearly drawn from photographs or film stills, these iconic performers evoke a time that was simpler for Osama and her generation: afternoon television at home. The square shapes of the canvases even mimic the square box of tube television sets. Before personal computers, Wi-Fi, and Facebook, people curled up on the couch and watched the stars of the twentieth century glide by on the small screen.
While the stars in the paintings are immediately recognizable, it is hard to place the source images. This is because Osama finds numerous photographs using Google image search and blends them together, creating recognizable faces without a single source. In Souad Hosni and Vintage Car, a bust of the legendary performer appears before a black background, crumbling gold squares surrounding her. A large turquoise Cadillac hovers over her shoulder, and Osama uses household fabric to stamp a floral design across the gold.
The exhibition is on until 5 September.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly