Women up for grabs.
History has proven that is no easy feat, and here we are, in the 21st century, still putting up a fight.
Nadine Hammam's multi-layered canvases currently showing at Safar Khan are yet another manifestation of this struggle. In the series titled "I'm for Sale" -- her second collection of nude paintings in two years -- the artist examines one dimension of women: their bodies.
Hammam's follow-up to 2008's acclaimed exhibition "Akl Aish" offers the viewer only a single layer of her subjects, their sexuality, in exchange for money, and in doing so; she subtly mocks those fixated solely on external appearance.
To the artist, objectifying women in society is like putting a price tag on them and shelving them up in a retail store. The collection, literally on sale, is opening up the possibility of purchasing the object, but not the person it represents.
Hammam admits the fact that a woman's physique is desirable, mysterious and often seductive, evident in the postures she depicts in each piece. But her technique yields two-dimensional creations with no trace of depth or character.
Ultimately, this collection is a suite of seductive women flat in form and hollow in content. To the artist, this is how society views women until now.
Hammam's subjects are outlined with shiny sparkles, highlighting the women's exterior and, at times, drawing attention to bodily parts associated with their sexuality: lips, eyes, nipples, vagina.
The viewer's eyes automatically inspect sketches of women drawn against unicolored backgrounds that resemble still photographs. When tracing women in sexually provocative postures, Hammam uses fiery shades of red.
At first glance, the choice of color directs the viewer's reaction: red and orange signify a sensual state whereas blue and green exude a sense of envy, or defeat. However, a longer gaze yields a common reaction: women trapped in sexual frames.
The first three pieces displayed upon entering the showroom focus on women's faces.
The first one traces a woman's face, shoulders and chest in pale fuchsia. Black sparkles are placed on her lips and eyes as the figure gazes down seductively.
The remainder of this suite concentrates more on the woman's body, maintaining the compelling glare that seems to mirror the artist's perception of how men gaze at women.
Upstairs was where I got a little confused.
The viewer meets more female temptresses; this time though, some of them exude a sense of liberation, as if someone has just set them loose rather than objectified them and pinned them down to a frame.
One such piece sees a woman sitting down, her torso slightly tilted forward with one leg bent and the other stretched to the side of the painting. The woman, naked, is gazing up in a seemingly pondering state.
Although there are traces of Hammam's subject flaunting her sexuality, I find it hard to place this particular piece within the context of the rest of the collection.
It is fair to say that Hammam did not develop much since her debut solo exhibit two years ago, which focused primarily on the social constraints women face. Although the subject matter is slightly different, aesthetically, this collection could have been a product of her last show.
In putting herself up "for sale," Hammam instantly forges a connection with her female audiences, forcing them to contemplate their current place in the world. If you don't have anything planned for the weekend, take a male friend and go to Safar Khan; it will certainly yield an interesting discussion.
Nadine Hammam's "I'm for Sale" is currently showing at Safar Khan Gallery, 6 Brazil St., Zamalek, Cairo. Mon-Sat, 10 am-2 pm & 5-9 pm. The exhibit runs until April 28. Tel: (02)2735 3314.
Daily NewsEgypt 2009
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