28 July 2017

Art I like - Susan Hefuna's "Afaz"

What a wonderful surprise to find that the Whitworth, when I visited Manchester, had an exhibition ( ToGather; till 3 Sept) of Susan Hefuna's "cubes" and drawings. I'd seen and drawn some of her work a few years ago, and used it in the Large Sketchbook Course (2014)- and kept thinking about it.

"The exhibition takes the form of “mental map”, installed in several rooms at the Whitworth and parts of Whitworth Park. A series of palmwood structures, inspired by boxes seen on the streets of Hefuna’s native Cairo, are joined by a rich selection of drawings, vitrines, personal objects and a new digital experience by International Magic, all on themes of migration and separation, gathering and togetherness."

"All the world's a cage" said the Guardian's review. The palmwood structures are known as afaz, which means cage in Arabic. The structures, airy boxes a metre square, piled three high, are made "by punching holes into larger, stronger pieces of wood and pushing through smaller strips while the palmwood is still damp. The screens are laid out in the Egyptian sun to dry and strengthen and then tied together with hemp string to form these crate-like objects. ... Palmwood baskets proliferate in the strets of Cairo as containers, tables, chairs and surfaces. They might contain eggs or vegetables for sale, or a a street food vendor's tin bowls and beans."

Searching for images (the word crate is useful here!) I found quite a few, including these -
Gireed (palm-fibre) crates (via)

Traditional construction (via)
This is what Hefuna has done with them, as seen in the Whitworth -

In the rooms off this gallery are her drawings, usually layered, first drawn on paper and then a second image on a transparent overlay. "The second drawing is not a deliberated and slow response but both intuitive and improvisational" says the exhibition guide.

"Hefuna herself describes drawing as meditative. 'I have to really concentrate and surround myself with a very calm atmosphere ... I cannot draw every day, as I can't always achieve the right level of concentration. I have to retreat into my shell to create these series. What happens is, every so often I take a break and then an entire series is born. So if there is a phase with the right atmosphere and if I'm able to withdraw, then I need a few days before I can actually begin to draw. And then I can do them. I never make any preparatory drawings for my work, so I never know what will be the final results.' "

The Cityscape drawings (2016) are here

One theme in her work, in drawing as well as sculpture, is the
 mashrabiya, carved wooden window screens
"created using outmoded and disappearing carving techniques"

"infinity" series - needs a closer look

Colour corrected and close up
Translate (2015) - pencil and stitching on layered paper
(more here)
Ink on tracing paper -
From the Being series (2016) - more here

The various series of drawings are on her website - as are here installation/sculptures.

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