Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

A patched self

Rania Khallaf tracks patches of a vivid memory

#A patched self # A patched self # A patched self
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Nemat Al-Diwany’s second solo exhibition, “Patchwork of Occurrences”, has been lately on show at Picasso Art Gallery in Zamalek. It features 31 acrylic and oil paintings that mark a new departure for the artist. Al-Diwany’s first exhibition, “And the dialogue continues”, held last year at Al-Gezira Arts Centre, was based on a conversation between a young woman and a bird, and was dedicated to the memory of her late father.  The theme of this show, a complementary collection, is memories of her family: the warmth, the bonds, the values. It is all very vivid in her mind’s eye. The paintings, which convey joy, love and warmth, depict relationships: a mother with her daughter, a sister and her brother, or a group of figures connected by an imaginary network. The figures, beautifully abstracted, resemble children’s drawings. They are not necessarily in a happy mood; their eyes look perplexed or in a state of profound meditation.

“As time goes by, our memories turn into a blend of bits and pieces,” Al-Diwany says, “unrelated events and feelings. However, some good values can be beautifully extracted. I wanted to take the values that I inherited to a next level, to the larger world. I wanted my audience to feel and experience them. As you get older, you discover that you are a mere patchwork of occurrences, of incomplete stories and conversations, and then you try to recall them to sew them together into patches, aiming to mend the broken, to relive a good sensation, or question the validity of a rule. When I started working on this collection, I was surprised to find many of the pieces resembling patchwork art. And it took me some time to realise that I was painting patchworks from my emotional memory.” 

The paintings look like patchwork, but they are made in acrylic with a faint oil wash on top. “It would have been easier and more direct” to work with collage, but she prefers to achieve let the effect emerge through the way figures are distributed on the surface, the layers of colour and speed and violence of the knife. Indeed movement is among this work’s most remarkable qualities, especially in the light of the static scenes of her first show. The movement remains gentle, however: a slow motion of remembrance. Some figures give the impression of being wooden dolls, while others children’s book characters. Broken toys, curious cats, paper kites, musical instruments and pretty birds are all amply represented. 

“We all experience moments of extreme joy or sadness. In the end you need to patch these feelings together in order to be emotionally balanced.” Some figures are disfigured – a twisted neck, a displaced eye, a leg missing – such is her eagerness to affirm acceptance and tolerance. “We all have inner and outer flaws. They don’t make us less human or less beautiful. I find beauty in the flaws and in ugliness.” The daughter of a culture-loving diplomat, Al-Diwany studied business in Rome and graduated from John Cabot University; years later, she studied art history in Rome.  She was back in Italy few years ago to pursue further studies at the Florence Art Academy. Apart from a few paintings, bright colours prevail in this exhibition, too bright for the scenes. “It might be my selective memory. The theme was so powerful that I wanted to use all my tools to emphasise it. Bright and blended colours are one tool.”

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