Sherin Guirguis: Passages//Toroq
The Third Line
Until 5 December 2013
The Third Line is pleased to present Sherin Guirguis’ first solo show in the region. Sherin investigates post-colonial themes of political, cultural and social dogma and feminist activism within the framework of the Egyptian diaspora, both in the public and private spheres. Delving deep into the building blocks of culture and identity, specifically from the approach of a diaspora artist, she presents her interpretation of what it means to be defined by the transformative events of the moment.
For Passages//Toroq, Sherin presents works in two parallel series that address concerns of identity formation, highlighted predominantly in the wake of the mercurial Arab Springs. The title of the exhibition refers to both the literary and historical passages that are quoted in the work as well as the social passageways, or toroq, forged by the revolution. Crucial to its people, the revolution defies the political, social and cultural standards that have been imposed by and grown out of colonization.
Sherin references historical developments in Egypt in order to have a clearer insight to the present.
Three large-scale kinetic sculptures from the first series are inspired by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, which maps the cultural evolution/revolution in Egypt and the breakdown and reconstruction of post-colonial Egypt. Fabricated in the shape of traditional Arabic jewelry, and constructed from materials similar to harem mashrabeyas, these decorative pieces and their rocking movements reference a woman’s body as she walks down a public street. That they only function when interacted with by a viewer, fluctuating from passive and beautiful to flailing and threatening, the sculptures allude to the role each individual has in contributing towards established sexual mores. Qasr El Shoaq moves slowly and methodically on a single axis, rocking slowly back and forth; Bien El Qasrein twirls, rocks and spins erratically and is the most unpredictable; El Sokareya is completely static and deconstructed. Shifts in cultural and political paradigms are embodied in the objects’ formal language, both decorative and minimal, as well as the performative interactions.
The second series is centered on paintings that explore transitional spaces from historically relevant locations in Egyptian feminism – more specifically the life of Huda Shaarawi, a pioneer Egyptian feminist leader and nationalist, and the birth of the Egyptian Women’s Union. By continuing her previous practice of hand cut works on paper, embedded with gold powder and gold leafing, Sherin uses architectural references such as doorways, windows, and arches to convey the significance of the site and the role it plays in establishing a radical ideology. The paintings include a representation of the door to Huda Shaarawi’s house (one of the last functional harems in the country) and the Cairo railway station Bab El-Hadid, where she and her colleague Saiza Nabrawi removed their veils.
As an Arab-American artist, and part of the Egyptian Diaspora for more than two decades, Sherin’s art practice has involved studying important works of Egyptian literature, music, poetry, design and architecture of the past to be able to contribute to this discourse in the present. She has developed a unique style by selecting decorative and ornamental elements from these sources and shaping a critique through associative juxtapositions. By invoking many meanings of Egyptian identities – for example, one man, one woman; one writer, one activist; one work of fiction and one biography – the artist defines the apparent contradictions of cultural identity, and at the same time, points to the similarities of diasporic life that have now become the norm for many Arab artists.
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