“The drawings of Ania Soliman constitute a complex body of research into how the switch from theory to practice, from world-views to worlds, or from epistemology to ontology,
“The drawings of Ania Soliman constitute a complex body of research into how the switch from theory to practice, from world-views to worlds, or from epistemology to ontology, unveils many dilemmas. […] Soliman’s work deals with much more than lines and forms and colors and compositions. There is a reason why much of her work takes a large scale: it needs a battleground on which to address belief – the way it shapes the self, how the self relates to the “I”, and the “I” to all the others”. Chus Martinez1
Sfeir-Semler Gallery is happy to announce the first solo exhibition of Ania Soliman in the Middle East, opening in our Beirut space on Thursday August 25, 2022, from 6 to 9 PM.
Centering around the idea of the Terraform, or the artificial reproduction of earth ecologies, the painting and drawing exhibition delves into the realms of the multi-layered connections, intersections and mergers between nature, technology, and humans. Soliman is a conceptual artist whose research-based practice often results in monochromic large-scale works on paper. After a month spent in Beirut, she produced works on canvas for the first time, using spray-paint, artificial and natural plants as well as pieces from dismantled obsolete machinery to leave organic shapes, poetic arabesques, or rough spontaneous streaks of paint on the fabric. The seriality and scale of these canvases that carry in their making both mechanical planning as well as natural impulses, underline the feeling of urgency and anxiety in our relationship to nature, to the point of acquiring sculptural attributes and becoming curtain-like objects hung in an engulfing loose rectangle.
While the spray-painted canvases are produced through performative action-painting, with quick bold moves that fill the space, the works on paper in Phtalo green follow a methodical process foregrounded by the artist and that allows her to identify the background from the objects that she draws using pigments, wax, and encaustic. The annotation system, revolving around the figure-ground relationship, becomes in turn part of the work, and results in surfaces that completely ignore central perspective. The four-paneled work on paper Terraform depicts a rainforest and turns a computer screensaver into an immersive experience, prompting the viewer to look for the tree, the leaves or the tiger concealed by the landscape. This specific color is used in a whole series that refers to our visual technologies and their addictive circuits: the toxic green works stem from the encounter with a culture that humans can no longer control.
The bamboo plants in fluorescent yellow use that annotation system to mimic technical drawings designed by humans to mass-produce artificial bamboos in plastic or cloth. The artificial plants represent the kind of irrational and manic overproduction that threatens the earth, yet they also reflect our desire for nature even in its most alienated manifestations.
Interestingly, some of the works titles are created in collaboration with a random word generator algorithm, while for others, Soliman uses machine mistranslations from Arabic, such as Chemical Emotions (kahraba) , Resurrecting Light (kahraba), Shaking the Nerves of Animals (kahraba) etc…
Ania Soliman’s Beirut diary includes insomnia drawings, banknotes and exploding galaxies, and is presented with a group of barrels, recuperated in the gallery neighborhood of Karantina, and constituting a “diwan” made of seats from recycled former oil containers. Ultimately, the exhibition doesn’t tackle technologies as such, but rather investigates how we feel, talk, and think about them: the core conceptual element of each work culminates in an overwhelming burst of colors.
Ania Soliman is an Egyptian, Polish, and American artist who grew up in Baghdad, and currently lives in Paris. She makes large scale drawings based on digitized imagery and archival material, while also working with text, performance, video and installation.
Her research-based practice focuses on processes of translation between different cultures and their representations. She is especially interested in how this determines our relationships, both real and imaginary, between nature and technology.
Through processes of tracing, desaturating, smudging, coloring, and embellishing, she transforms source materials into layered drawings that often repeat a motif since they represent the action of conflicting ideas working themselves out. Her works function as icons for unconscious negotiations between our bodies and the culturally determined languages that occupy our minds.
Ania Soliman’s work has been exhibited at Kunsthaus Bregenz (2020), the Drawing Center in New York (2020), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2018), the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg (2016), the Museum of Contemporary Art at Antwerp (2015), the Whitney Biennial (2010), the 14th Istanbul Biennial (2015), the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (2014), among other venues, and she has recently done lecture-performances at the Global Art Forum in Dubai and Singapore. She attended Harvard College and Columbia University before participating in the Whitney Independent Study Program. In 2010 she was awarded the Laurenz-Haus residency in Basel, Switzerland.
Courtesy of Sfeir Semler Gallery
Feature Caption: Ania Soliman, Terraform 1 (everyone-zoospore, recovery-whew), 2022, colored pencil, encaustic, acrylic ink on paper, 4 panels of 280 x 115 cm each.
August 25 (Thursday) 18:00 - January 7 (Saturday) 21:00
Sfeir Semler Gallery
Admiralitätstrasse 71, D-20459, Hamburg, Germany