My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;
‘Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.
I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call.
Rumi’s poetry perfectly embodies the thinking behind Sherin Guirguis’ El Beit El Kabir, her show in Dubai’s Third Line until December 10th. “How do we mitigate real history?,” she asks, elaborating on her desire to create a direct line between the past and present. “I’m thinking about diaspora on a personal level, and how narrative and histories develop a fiction once you leave home and get older.” Guirguis has created an updated version of her memories of a long-ago home, in Luxor, Egypt. Now based in Los Angeles, Guirguis doesn’t exactly remember it, but is aware of an “imagined personal history and narrative that grows with you. As the present moment changes we redefine our story and re-contextualise our history,” she says, describing her wood and aluminium sculptural series Untitled (Olla).
These Olla are futuristic renditions of clay water pots. Talismans, anthropomorphic in stature. “They really feel like they occupy the space like bodies,” she smiles. “The bottom is fluorescent yellow. They hover a little bit. It’s there but it’s not there, and when it is lit you see the a vessel that does not contain anything. It becomes a trace of itself. Those old houses had a mystical feeling, everything creaked with tall ceilings, big families coming in and out. There was always some version of life there, even if you couldn’t feel it. (I’m) re-creating that space of my childhood.”
Joining the Olla at the show are a series of paintings and works on paper, with the likes of Untitled (Hexagon) merging traditional Arabic patterns with splashes of colour, layering the weight of the present with the force of the past.