Home > Paintings, Revolution > On Codes, Symbols and the Stockholm Syndrome – culturally loaded symbols in a contemporary world

On Codes, Symbols and the Stockholm Syndrome – culturally loaded symbols in a contemporary world

Stockholm Hathor , 120 x 80 cm

In my latest painting project, On Codes, Symbols and the Stockholm Syndrome, I use symbols that are political and social at the same time. I draw on my interest in French philosopher Jean Baudrillard who, in his seminal research of cultural specificities, wrote about simulation and simulacra, or simplistically, the fake and the authentic. Baudrillard argues that in a world where the original is always preceded by the sign, and where the simulated copy has superseded the original, reality becomes a meaningless concept. Taking this idea as my starting point, I explore notions of what is real, and what is unreal, in a contemporary culture loaded with codes and symbols of faith, ideology, wealth, subjugation and the quest for power.

My use of symbols is not new. In all my work, I attempt to discover what it means to be Egyptian. I grew up in an Egypt that was far more secular and progressive. Throughout my career, I have used media propagated symbols as a way of breaking the barrier between East and West, past and present, sacred and ephemeral. In the end, I believe that everything is ‘sellable’ and ‘package-able’ including Faith.

I generally work on symbols of male (using body-builders) and female (using fashion top models). I always build on the idea of the perfection of the human body; the idealization and the idolization of the human body. I use cutouts from magazines and digitally rework them, then manually work them into the canvas to create my narrative. Sometimes they’re very obvious, or critically speaking “literal”, at other times they’re not (and you need to take a closer look) and are more metaphoric.

I suppose what differs in this new work is the way in which I use fewer and oversized symbols on my canvases, giving them a new significance as regards to their previous appearances in other painting projects.

Two Stockholm Hathors & One Nute 250 x 200 cm

Hathor, the ancient Egyptian ‘cow’ goddess: maternal, sensual, and sometimes sexual. She symbolizes a ‘space’ that brings (holds) people together in one place – she is giving, she is even sacrificing her own flesh for people to eat and live. I refer to her as ‘she’ and not ‘it’ as she is the sacred feminine. I use a representation of the animal (in this case, a cow)  metamorphosing the form into a simulation of an ancient Egyptian idiogram or pictograph. I place the Ma’at crown on her head to symbolize justice. I use a figure of the actual animal and not the actual ancient Egyptian god to avoid clichés.

Sekhmet, the lioness and ancient Egyptian goddess of war. I use her quite a lot. She appears in many different ways in this project. She dominates her space reminding us that the sacred feminine, capable of such boundless generosity and sacrifice, is equally capable of bloodshed and war.

Eagle of Saladin (SalahEldin): this is a newly introduced symbol that occurs sometimes in newer canvases – representing the present state of the country and criticizing those currently in power.

Islamic star: it symbolizes the current prevalence of the right wing religious streams of thought.

Runners: these uniform images of human figures running insinuate the idea of flight; flight of identity, flight of power, flight from faith to agnosticism and from agnosticism to faith. The runners may also refer to the notion of forced migration, both in the physical literal and the metaphoric senses; the escape to another place/space/reality.

Stockholm Hathor Rain 200 x 120 cm

Colour dripping: the thousands of colour drips all over the canvases for me represent the diversity of people in Tahrir Square, all coming from different walks of life. The surface of the canvas is a field of expression, just like Cairo’s streets and squares, and the ‘dripping’ is the protestors and demonstrators all expressing their different lives and their intermingling narratives.

Stockholm kalsoom 250 x 90 cm
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