Fatma Shanan’s series explores the physical experience shaped through societal rules, and the expansion of the boundaries of body and soul. She serves as her own model, staging her body at harsh angles, difficult to view, camouflaged or amputated, never in a direct, exposed gaze at the viewer. Concealment and blurring contribute to gender role reversal, attesting to the woman’s ability to perform social functions habitually reserved to men.
The artist uses camouflage tactics like animals in the wild, smearing her face with greenish Dead Sea mud, which lends her head and face a grotesque, beastly appearance, like a mythological centaur. For her, this is a symbol of animal sensuality and lust, associated with the male in society, whereas adoption of the male image on the female body is intended to undermine fixed gender patterns. In other works, she “grows” flowers out of her body, which likewise expand its boundaries, implying the beginning of change, development, and regrowth. Shanan’s painting strives to generate movement that deviates from the expected, one which would expand the body’s boundaries and flexibility, as a symbolic expression for the desire to expand the physical and mental freedom of the woman as a human being.
The works in the exhibition voice the criticism from within, without mediation. The artists put themselves in the middle of an intergenerational discourse which represents, on the one hand, the silence/silencing of the mothers’ generation, and on the other—the anxiety for the fate and future of the community’s younger generation of girls.
Fatma Shanan, Portrait of My Body 1, 2019, oil on canvas, 150×100
Fatma Shanan, Portrait of My Body 2, 2019, oil on canvas, 100×150
Photographer: Shay Ben Efraim