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Go Find Yourself: Ghadeer Hafez\'s \'The Human Group\' and the lessons we learn from it
Jan. 15th, 2011 at 7:14 AM
Naima Rashid visited Ghadeer Hafez\'s \'The Human Group\' exhibition and reports back to Jeddah Blog.
Ghadeer Hafezs exhibition The Human Group is a study of the whole emotional gamut of humans, both as individuals and groups. There is man, the solitary creature, and there is man the social animal. There is man the singular persona and there is man in clusters and groups. There are close-ups of faces in agony, bliss or meditation and there are duos and groups in acts of love and scenes of mourning. There are phases of life (motherhood, death) and phases of man (tribal times and modern times).
Humans, humans, and more humans: In ones, twos, threes, and more. Ghadeer is interested in how the \'self\' morphs and evolves in the course of a lifetime through a series of situations, what we lose, and what we gain from them.
Ghadeers theme is the quest for the real, true self inside each one of us. Living as we do in the world, from day to day, earning our bread and butter, surviving tragedies, celebrating joys, handling social situations, basically performing the necessary minimum of life, we undergo a lifelong process of putting on masks, of deceiving others and ourselves, of hiding our real emotions, and sometimes burying them so deep down under the debris so as to lose it beyond recognition or recovery. Over time, camouflage hardens into habit, and habit becomes the self that we take for real. We end up becoming what we do repeatedly. As they say, Life happens, and before we know it, weve strayed so far from ourselves that we no longer know who we really are.
Ghadeer does not like this slow loss of self, this slaughter of the self to the dictates of survival. In no uncertain terms, she wants to scream her concern to the world --- go and find the self you lost behind all those masks you had to put on from time to time, all those half-truths you had to utter because so and so was watching. Unlearn what you ended up becoming, and reclaim the self you were meant to be.
All the grief we bottle, all the anger we subdue, where does it go It doesn\'t evaporate, it condenses into bitterness or denial. Maybe it\'s a good idea to let out that scream you\'ve been wanting to scream or weep the tears you\'ve been holding back.
So, how DOES one go about reclaiming this lost self By Ghadeers prescr iption, it will be a painful but rewarding procedure involving equal parts of will and meditation, presence and evasion. Like a sword, she says, one shall have to slice through the layer of complacency that we wear like a second skin. We need to constantly get away from the false self and closer to the inner core of truth. The way to do that is to meditate, and confront our conflicts in a personal space, and over time, master the art of distancing ourselves from the clutter that clamps our existence, both physically and mentally.
Mostly, characters in Ghadeers paintings have their eyes closed. They could be at a scene of death or in a crowd, and while physically present in the scene, they appear to be growing out of it, the half-moons of their closed eyelids swimming in the elongated ovals of their faces. They dominate the canvas physically, magnified several times in proportion to the rest of the figures, and loom large above them, as if rising above their physicality to tap into a hidden region of inner strength.
Eyes wide open: You don\'t close your eyes to shut out the world, but to re-connect with your inner self. It\'s an art that takes some practice; holding one\'s own in the middle of a crisis, being oneself while the crowd points fingers.
The faces are either in deep, restful trance or in the throes of agony, eyes popping out and tongues flicking out in the manner of animals. She is obviously interested in moments when realization hits full force and how people move onwards from there. For emotional chaos and agony, she uses the loud expressiveness of colours while for sober moments, she tones down to a monochrome effect.
Within each one of us, we harbor a co-existence of contraries. So believes Ghadeer. We exist as several people simultaneously, switching, as it were, from one mode to another, assuming different roles at different moments. In a lot of paintings, we see a branching out of the self, faces growing out of faces, eyes growing out of eyes, often to the count of three. The divergence suggests the multitude of selves that we forcibly become, how we branch out endlessly until we reach a point of no return.
A confusion of selves, personas, and masks. Which one is the real you Are you too far gone to find yourself
Ghadeers colour palette is adventurous and unusual, to say the least. The co-positing of colours from different tonal ranges produces an effect which could be slightly jarring at times, for example bold hints of her ubiquitous blue and fluorescent oranges in a canvas dominated by dark African browns. Even her monochrome paintings possess a glaring, in-your-face quality. In keeping with her thematic concerns, viewing her paintings is an uncomfortable experience, leading us to a recognition of facts we might have been conveniently ignoring so far. The colours; their choice, the way they act upon each other, the way we register them, agitate both the eye and the mind. The truth must be faced, and now is as good a time as any other.
This unusualness of colour arrangement and the intensity of subject matter make her art a matter of deep, personal choice. Her canvasses with their dark unreflective surfaces draw colour out of the room and unto themselves. They scream to be the point of focus. Once the eye finds them, it must linger there awhile, which means they would ill share space with other objects as statement-makers, but which also means that with one painting set off by dramatic lighting, theres little else youll need to liven up a zone. They would make great centre-pieces for intimate spaces or nooks used as personal retreats.
With the right lighting, the dark canvasses unfold their drama.
While Ghadeer is still discovering her artistic direction, her exploration of the human theme, although a little general, is energetic, and holds promise for where she is headed next.