Zena Assi’s ‘Ecce Homo’ exhibit extends around a whole hall at CAP, without inhibitions on techniques or subject matter; the gallery is another canvas to the artist where she takes you into multiple worlds, weaving a set of identities, at times clashing, collaging, or juxtaposing; they live side by side at ease exploring the differences of one another. Having a walkthrough with the artist adds another cumulative layer of reading a personal bit amidst cultural abundance! You are fronted by the 3 cityscape ‘carpets’, the traditional frames of which are trespassed by the Lebanese city scenery, which is disordered at best, yet with depth; historically and spatially. This same scenery of crumbling buildings, blacked-out electric poles with loosely dangling wires overlay and underlay the canvas that hosts simultaneously well-known iconography of our pop-culture, with the vividness of colors popping off the canvas, yet at the same time grounding it with the inherent flatness of the iconography. You are unsettled looking at these 3 cityscape artworks as they are an accumulation of one world on the other, spatial and abstract, vivid and eroded, cultural iconography and family daguerreotypes. When delving through them with the artist, she walks you in a world, weaving the personal with the cultural with ease of moving in between both, without one denying the other. The fine grain of the works was not possible to capture through the carpet making techniques, so she took the form of it and liberated it from such constraint through art!
A patina, a set of textures, a series of overlays, all intertwined to form a deep oneness. Whether the monochromatic or polychromatic works, ‘contrast’ is key for the artist to pull you in and push you back out of the work. To make you gaze well into the detail and then throw you out to reflect it back into your own world. An interpretation of Goya’s worlds is etched onto a series where a hegemonic creature (or set of them) overshadows a crippled world; a concept proving timeless! This series is never given its right, until you go and experience it, one by one, one after the other, all together.
The fly series, when looking from a distance, seem like a metamorphosis series inked with the melancholy of Kafka. Once you get closer, you realize the whim of the artist blending skillfully the anatomy of the fly with an AK-47, for instance.
Another work, a frame within a frame, a Palestinian-inspired embroidery of geometric patterns frames a collaged set of typically English textiles, hodgepodged with machine sawn patches. A dual homage there; one, to a not-so-comforting-feminist stance on the whole embroidery aspect and, two, to a technique being politicized nowadays with shifting histories of overlapping people.
Ecce Homo exhibit is one of four at CAP; this is a must-go-to event to travel outside Kuwait, without the need of being screened!