Ornament im Raum 02

2004  Espace Karim Francis, Kairo
Blaues Glas, Baumwolle  Ø 320 cm

“Sternbilder” ist der Titel der neuen Arbeiten in der Ausstellung. Die Installation wiederholt das Motiv: blaue Glasflaschen fügen sich zusammen und bilden die Struktur für einen fünfzackigen Stern, der umgeben von einem Kreis aus Rohbaumwolle im Zentrum der Galerieräume ausgebreitet liegt.

CAIROTIMES, Weekly news-magazine, Volume 8, Issue 1, 4-10 MARCH 2004

All shapes and sizes.
Geometry takes the floor in a new show at Espace Karim Francis.

Sometimes a gallery can take on the role of an oasis in the busy streets of the city. Now, as we are suddenly projected into one of those hot spells that warn us of the summer heat to come, we start appreciating this factor once again. Espace Karim Francis is one of those galleries where the calm of a gallery space can be best appreciated and this is especially true during the current exhibition. Hidden away on the second floor of an old building not far from Midan Talaat Harb, Espace Karim Francis is just removed enough from the noise of the city center to allow you to relax and take in the art on display. This past month, it has been the work of Nora Bachel and her impressively understated art that has been calming gallery-goers at the same time as being thought-provoking.

The first room that you come to in the gallery is completely empty exept for a series of works that feature geometric shapes on one wall. Clear and simple, each 35cm x 35cm frame has one black  star-like form made up of a variable number of dots on a field of white. The effect is intriguing. There is a contrast between the reassuring nature of the simple, recognizable shapes and the sharp black/white division of the area. This strange effect is developed as the viewer moves forward and sees that dots are nails that have been suspended in layers of transparent material. Hanging in space, the nails are like those slow motion moments in films where the bullets hang in the air. Here, though, the nails seem to have their sharp points neutralized by the tulle, the material that Bachel has used to freeze them in space and time.

This all sends the imagination spiraling off, as the viewer makes associations with the purity of form in Islamic art as well as the shroud-like quality of the tulle. It also brings up associations with symbols, both religious and nationalistic, which are best created from the simplest of shapes, such as crosses and crescents. Here the purity of the form has been removed by the artist’s choice of hard and soft materials in a single piece and we are faced with works to which we may assign whatever symbolic meaning we like, ornone at at all. What makes this section of the show so striking is the fact that it only makes use of a single wall, yet at the same time is so effective.

The other room is dominated by another star-inspired creation, but thiss time it is located at the center of the floor. Here, blue glass bottles are fitted togetherto make a huge pentangle surrounded by raw cotton that forms a sort of fleecy carpet. The pentangle, of course, is loaded with witchcraft or pagan implications and bottles were often used in the past for poisin, but with the soft circle surrounding the star, there is nothing but a positiv feel to the piece. Maybe the soft circle removes the tension from the sharpness of the star shape.

Also, the circle of cotton doesn’t quite fit the space and the walls jutting out into space break the circle. This perhaps suggests a further level of malleability to the circle. Is the artist suggesting that any symbol can be used for aggressive purposes if it is in the right environment, whereas when it is in a more gentle society it can be a positive symbol of unity? Visitors are left to make up their minds.

Also in this show are pictures from Bachel’s „I Love You“ project, which combines embroidery and fotography to create a series of portraits with the eponymous phrase embroidered on top of the faces. Bachel took the I Love You computer virus as her starting point and looked at the implications of this simple phrase on society. She coments in here catalogue that the virus was spread through people’s need for affirmation, and goes on to say that this need for love causes immense conflict in society. This of course makes sense, but in the few works that are included in this exhibition, it is questionable how successfully this „emotional experience“ is transmitted to the viewer. They are out of place with the other aspects of the show.

The 2000/1 „Golden Tooth“ series, on the other hand, are very effective in the simplicity of their presentation. Bachel has placed a number of tiny silver and gold rectangles on pieces of handmade paper. The forms made by these rectangles, which are like the punch marks made in tickets, have a mathematical basis. Nevertheless, the show as a whole is impressive and gives the visitor a lot to think about. The work never sacrifices the aesthetic dimension to the conceptual and it embraces the space it is in.

Richard Woffenden