Saturday, 1 February 2014

Rashid Rana Solo Show Opening at Lisson Milan and Flashbacks to Lalla Essaydi

Rashid Rana at Lisson Gallery 

Last week I went to Rashid Rana's opening at Milan's Lisson gallery. Rana, one of the most famous and definitely the most expensive (since this term nowadays is more impressive and for some is a key element of whether or not to visit an exhibition opening) Pakistani artist. I am used to gallery openings when few give a speech and do praise an artist standing next to him, visitors bring the flowers and gifts, but in Europe I do not think it is a tradition or maybe I arrive too late and miss the event's culmination. 

Rana entered space one hour later when everyone were already in the courtyard enjoying Italian wine and cold cut, so his arrival remained unnoticed to the majority of the crowd. Another observation, those who come to the exhibition openings, at least, from my very scarce experience, do not recognize the artist. In the world of Google search this ignorance, especially when one visits a solo show is a bit disrespectful. But again, I might be wrong. 

Rana is indisputably talented, but after reflecting and comparing his current exhibition with his earlier works, I incline to say that there is a bit of distantiation and less innovation in the works that are now on view: when looking at the pieces it might not be obvious that Rashid Rana made them, but when asking oneself whether Rashid Rana could have be the author of these pieces at the exhibition, the answer is "yes". 

"My work is often a three-way negotiation between myself, my immediate physical surroundings and what I receive – whether through the Internet, books, history or collective knowledge.” 
Rashid Rana, ArtReview, 2013
Rashid Rana, Notions of Narrations II, 2013. C-print, 228 x 323 cm. Image Source: Lisson Gallery

"Would anyone in this room know where the hell is Baku?"

- Would anyone in this room know where the hell is Baku? Seriously, Baku? So Dina, my friend Dina, went there and made a show of Lalla Essaydi in Baku!
- When was it?
- This autumn and before she was curating Love Me, Love Me Not pavilion at Biennale
- Oh
- Btw, Essaydi did not come up with anything new. Shirin Neshat has been doing that already. But you know what, after knowing her personal story I have started to appreciate her more. 
- She has been married to a Saudi and then when they separated he was keeping the children and all those stories. So her Harem series is actually about her life with her husband!

I overheard this monologuous dialogue in the lower lever of the gallery sitting between three ladies, Middle Eastern by their appearance, whose English accent revealed they all have been living or visited often UK. It was difficult not to hear their conversation, despite I tried to read the press release - the reason why I sat down. Still, I did not want to be impolite and intervene with "Yes, I know where's Baku" comment. Later, however, when helping the same young lady to order a cab, I have brought up this topic and we both laughed. 

Shirin Neshat, from Soliloquy series, 1999. Gelatine silver print, 25,4 x 33 cm 

Lalla Essaydi in Baku's Museum of Modern Art

Beyond Time and Beauty exhibition was the one mentioned in the conversation. I am glad I had a chance to see Lalla Essaydi's works live so soon after discovering her participating in a group show She Who Tells a Story in Boston's Museum of Fine Art earlier last year.

Born in 1956 in Marrakech, Morocco, Lalla Essaydi has been working in variety of media, recently devoting herself to photogpraphy. Despite she was educated in Europe and the USA, many years spent in Saudi Arabia have shaped her works. Lalla Essaydi’s photography is a contemporary reflection of Orientalism that is traced back to the nineteenth century art of Ingres, Delacroix and Gérome.

“In my art I wish to present myself through multiple lenses – as artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalists, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite the viewer to resist stereotypes.” 
Lalla Essaydi

“<…> the subject of Harem Revisited are clothed in elaborate caftans and their environments are now covered with these richly adorned fabrics. The draperies are dense and have such rich embroidery and complex patterns that when seen altogether, the effect is dizzying, essentially turning the women themselves into objects of decoration, camouflaged within their environments. They become, in effect, a metaphor for the essence of Essaydi’s exploration. These vintage textiles, which were created between the 17th century to the early 20th century for use in wedding ceremonies, to decorate palaces and the harem area, were all generously loaned to Essaydi from the Nour and Boubl er Temli collection.” 
Dina Nasser-Khadivi, exhibition curator  
Lalla Essaydi, Harem #19b, 2009. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 101,6x76,2 cm (40x30 in.) 
Lalla Essaydi, Harem #19b, 2009. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 101,6x76,2 cm (40x30 in.). Details
Lalla Essaydi, Harem Revisited #39, 2012. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 101,6x76,2 cm (40x30 in.)
 Lalla Essaydi, Harem Revisited #39, 2012. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 101,6x76,2 cm (40x30 in.). Detail
 Lalla Essaydi, Les Femmes du Maroc: Harem Women Writing, 2008. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 122x152,4 cm (48x60 in.)
Lalla Essaydi, Les Femmes du Maroc: Harem Women Writing, 2008. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 122x152,4 cm (48x60 in.). Details

In the works from the Bullet Revisited series, a scene is set the sort of room one finds in Orientalist painting. Each room – its tiles, woodwork, and other décor, as well as the women’s clothing – is reproduced in faithful detail. But these scenes are created with bullet casings that turn the domestic space into a psychological one, charged with the violence within contemporary society.” 
DDina Nasser-Khadivi, exhibition curator 

Lalla Essaydi, Bullets Revisited #3, 2012. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium in three parts, 122x152,4 cm (48x60 in.) each.
Lalla Essaydi, Bullets Revisited #21, 2012. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 122x152,4 cm (48x60 in.)
Lalla Essaydi, Bullets Revisited #21, 2012. Chromogenic print mounted on aluminium, 122x152,4 cm (48x60 in.).Detail

For more photos from Lalla Essaydi exhibition, click here.


My favorite Artistic Twinship "game" may juxtapose Shirin Neshat's and Lalla Essaydi's works with Chinese Landscapes (1999-present) by Huang Yan who participated in independent Chinese pavilion at the 55th Venice Art Biennale with the works below. 

 Huang Yan, from Chinese Landscapes series, 2001, 100 x 80 cm
 Huang Yan, from Chinese Landscapes series, 2001, 100 x 80 cm

If interested to see more "body art", check out this post called Printed Skin on Pattern Bank blog.

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