Borrowing from symbolism and surrealism, the new series of works creates a direct dialogue between all the different genres in Zena Assi's artistic practice. These works are products of paper collages, ceramics, etchings, drawings, animations, monotypes, and paintings on canvas.
Throughout history, Gargoyles have been used for their dual functionality; in Gothic architecture, a gargoyle is designed to minimize the potential damage from water, but Gargoyles are also said to protect what they guard by turning away harmful spirits, deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. Consequently, after witnessing the 2020 4th of August explosion in the city of Beirut, and the devastating aftermath on its inhabitants, I was drawn to re-appropriate the cityscape and the chaos it was witnessing. The urgent need of a guarding army emerged and called for carving a series of effigies in a more pressing, contemporary light.
'My work is a continuous obsessive experiment to try and portray the psychology of the modern-day surroundings and especially the urban setting of the Arab world. One must involve the layers of its history and heritage, taking into consideration the complexity of its social organizations, the diversity of cultures, the multiplicity of religions. There is a factor of compressed dynamics and pauses, silences and energies, that makes the portrait of such cities seem vitally, soulfully animalistic and human at the same time.
For me, a canvas, a paper, a screen or a ceramic piece is a thinking space. Patterns can convey or relate to a certain cultural identity, written text can send a direct message or disrupt a trail of thought, imagery mixed with contemporary visual language like emojis, graffiti, can be used as never-ending narratives, where different cultures meet and overlap.'
'In Zena Assi's works, symbols and codes accumulate; one must look closely at the paintings to distinguish every detail of which some refer to older works. Other elements of the décor are nevertheless disturbing; the recurring presence of advertising billboards and posters for consumer products, luxury items, or big companies of the Net, emphasises that despite the situation, life goes on and trade resumes its rights...'
Ode to a Minefield is a solo exhibition by Zena Assi at Cromwell Place, London from March 22, 2022 until March 27, 2022.
Press release courtesy Galerie Tanit.
4 Cromwell Place,
London, SW7 2JE,
+44 (0)20 8057 1800
Wednesday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm, Sunday: 10am - 4pm