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Jess Johnson: Worlds Within Worlds Ocula Conversation Jess Johnson: Worlds Within Worlds

Geometric patterns, anthropomorphic characters, architectural spatial environments, and relics of the ancient world appear throughout Jess Johnson's artworks.Johnson's solo art-ventures began in drawing, but her long-term collaborative relationship with animator Simon Ward brings her drawings to life in videos and virtual reality. The animator has...

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Melati Suryodarmo: Performance Art as Trigger Ocula Conversation Melati Suryodarmo: Performance Art as Trigger

In 2012, Melati Suryodarmo opened Studio Plesungan in her native Surakarta, also known as Solo, the historic royal capital of the Mataram Empire of Java in Indonesia. Suryodarmo had returned to Indonesia from Germany, where she studied Butoh and choreography with Butoh dancer and choreographer Anzu Furukawa, time-based media with avantgarde...

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Lagos Biennial 2019: Stories from Africa’s most Populous City Ocula Report Lagos Biennial 2019: Stories from Africa’s most Populous City 15 Nov 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Under the direction of Folakunle Oshun, the second edition of the Lagos Biennial (26 October–23 November 2019) includes works by over 40 Lagos-based and international artists, architects, and collectives. Curated by architect Tosin Oshinowo, curator and producer Oyindamola Fakeye, and assistant curator of photography at the Art Institute of...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Lalla Essaydi

b. 1956, Morocco

Lalla Essaydi's large-scale photographs revolve around the harem, the odalisque and the veil—recurring themes that have dominated the European imagination of the Arab world. Combining calligraphy, henna and 19th-century Orientalist painting traditions along with her personal experiences, Essaydi seeks to capture the complex and multi-faceted experiences of Arab women.

Essaydi became interested in the theme of the harem while studying at Paris' Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the early 1990s, where she encountered the Western fantasies that differed drastically from her own experiences of the domestic spaces traditionally reserved for the women of Muslim households. The harems in 19th-century Orientalist paintings by artists such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme were highly exoticised and sexualised spaces, whereas the place in which she grew up in Marrakech, Morocco, had been domestic and family-oriented. For Essaydi, it was also associated with memories of punishment and restriction, where women and children were subjected to solitary confinement for rebelling against the rules of Islam.

Unlike the nude odalisques in Orientalist paintings, the women in Essaydi's photographs are often clad in flowing and formless garments with any exposed skin covered in handwritten Arabic verses. Converging Territories #30 (2004), for example, taken in a harem not unlike the one of her childhood, depicts a row of four women and children in varying degrees of dress; the tallest figure is covered from head to toe—her face included—while the children's faces, hands and feet are unclothed. Calligraphy—traditionally reserved for men in Islamic culture—is here inscribed in henna—a domestic art form practiced by women—to decorate figures' cream-coloured garments and skin along with the backdrop. In addition to portraying the residents of the harem as non-objectified, ordinary human beings, Essaydi subverts conventional gender roles through her use of text.

Essaydi similarly appropriates Orientalist painting traditions to expose the historical fetishisation of Arab women in Western art. Her Grand Odalisque from the series 'Les Femmes du Maroc' (2008), for example, mirrors the reclining nude in Ingres' 1814 La Grande Odalisque, although her subject is dressed. In 2012, she even used caftans and fabrics that were from the same period as the European Orientalist painters to which she refers as props for the photographs that comprise the 'Harem' (2009) and 'Harem Revisited' (2012–13) series.

At the same time, Essaydi has expressed on her website that her work does not attempt to merely critique Arab or Western culture, but to reflect on the artist's personal experiences and the experiences of Arab women more generally. On one hand, her use of calligraphy conveys the women in her photographs as individuals with their own voices. Engulfing them, however, the text simultaneously functions as a figurative veil, ensnaring the women in a type of confinement. Sometimes, Essaydi even makes her subjects indistinguishable from their surroundings in works such as Harem #2 (2011), in which the reclining model's garment is of the same colour and pattern as the furniture on which she rests.

Essaydi completed her studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, Boston, in 2003, and now lives and works in New York. Selected solo exhibitions include Truth and Beauty, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore (2018); Photographs, The Trout Gallery, Pennsylvania (2018); Lalla Essaydi: Still in Progress, Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai (2017); Lalla Essaydi: Photographs 2005–13, The San Diego Museum of Art (2015); Lalla Essaydi: Writing the Self, Writing Others, Bahrain National Museum (2014); and Les Femmes du Magreb, Orientalist Museum, Doha (2013). In 2012, a retrospective of her work titled Lalla Essaydi: Revisions was organised by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

Harem Revisited #48a by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiHarem Revisited #48a, 2013 Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
217.7 x 181.6 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Les Femmes du Maroc: La Sultan by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiLes Femmes du Maroc: La Sultan, 2008 Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
76.2 x 101.6 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Harem #7 by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiHarem #7, 2009 Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
152.4 x 121.9 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Dancer Triptych (#10, #8, #12) by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiDancer Triptych (#10, #8, #12), 2009 Chromogenic prints mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
101.6 x 228.6 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Les Femmes du Maroc: Reclining Odalisque by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiLes Femmes du Maroc: Reclining Odalisque, 2008 Chromogenic prints mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
152.4 x 365.8 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Harem Revisited #32 by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiHarem Revisited #32, 2012 Chromogenic prints mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
152.4 x 243.8 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Harem #7 by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiHarem #7, 2009 Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
152.4 x 121.9 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Harem #6 by Lalla Essaydi contemporary artwork
Lalla EssaydiHarem #6, 2009 Chromogenic prints mounted to aluminium with a UV protective laminate
152.4 x 365.8 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Women's Work at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore
Closed
18 January–2 March 2019 Group Exhibition Women's Work Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore
Contemporary art exhibition, Lalla Essaydi, Truth and Beauty at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore
Closed
26 October 2018–12 January 2019 Lalla Essaydi Truth and Beauty Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore

Represented By

In Related Press

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Photographer Lalla Essaydi recasts Arab women in her art Related Press Photographer Lalla Essaydi recasts Arab women in her art The Straits Times : 12 November 2018

SINGAPORE - Morocco-born artist Lalla Essaydi subverts the Western male gaze in her striking photographs of contemporary Arab women, who are swathed in lush fabric and often covered with text in henna. Her photos, some of which are on display at Sundaram Tagore Gallery at Gillman Barracks until Dec 15, can take up to a year or more to stage.

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Lalla Essaydi speaks on feminism, gender and race through her art Related Press Lalla Essaydi speaks on feminism, gender and race through her art Lafayette Student News : 2 March 2018

It took world-renowned artist Lalla Essaydi six months to a year to create her art.Her art consists of creating textiles, scripted fabric, and bullet garbs. She adorned the female models for her photographs with henna, a traditional body dye used in Morocco where it is associated with femininity.

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We speak to Lalla Essaydi about her first solo gallery show in Dubai Related Press We speak to Lalla Essaydi about her first solo gallery show in Dubai The National : 1 July 2017

The New York-based Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi admits that when it comes to the discussion and reception of her work, she has had to develop something of a thick skin.Carefully staged portraits of Arab women that are often larger than life-size, Essaydi's photographs not only engage with the art of the past, but also combine traditional Arabic...

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A conversation with Lalla Essaydi about 'Bullets,' the Arab Spring and violence against women Related Press A conversation with Lalla Essaydi about 'Bullets,' the Arab Spring and violence against women ARTSATL : 17 February 2017

Bullets, Lalla Essaydi's exhibition at Jackson Fine Art through April 15 is a provocative and metaphorically loaded take on the condition of women in today's Arab world.In this new series, the Moroccan-born New York-based artist denounces the violence women were subjected to following the repression of the Arab Spring. A departure from the...

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