This is Susan Hefuna’s second solo exhibition in London and features a selection of her most recent work, including gold-plated brass drawings, silvered-bronze wall sculptures and her signature latticework wooden screens (or mashrabiyas).
In Arabic rasm means ‘drawing’, ‘outline’ or ‘pattern’ but can also mean ‘formality’, ‘legend’, ‘record’, ‘ceremony’, ‘policy’ or simply ‘design’. Hefuna plays with the several connotations of the term, taking words and phrases from everyday life and incorporating them into her works in metal or wood. Each material and technique she employs brings its own tensions, giving form to ordinary letters within an architectural space. The words and phrases suggest poetic images and ideas that can be interpreted in several ways, opening the viewer to their own imagination and fantasies.
Hefuna has worked with words for some time, twisting, embellishing or gilding them in silver or gold. Though sometimes her words and phrases are mysterious, often she uses simple, short, terms that are open to interpretation – she gives them a literal and philosophical weight by casting them in metal.
Also on display are new etchings, underlining the artist’s ongoing interest in drawing. “In a drawing you cannot conceal anything. It is impossible to lie in a drawing,” she says. “The drawing shows everything. A drawing has no nationality, there is no time and space. It is its own universe. I always say: look at the drawings of an artist and you know everything about the artist. All I can say is that I have to draw. I’ve always drawn and will continue to make drawings. My drawings sustain me.” (1)
Susan Hefuna has exhibited widely at international institutions including the Serpentine Gallery, London; MoMa, the MAD Museum, and New Museum in New York; the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo; PiArtworks, Istanbul; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Kunstmuseum, Thun, Switzerland; Galerie Grita Insam, Vienna; the 53rd Venice Biennale; Seville Biennial; 2nd Riwaq Biennale, Palestine; the 9th Sharjah Biennial, UAE; the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Louvre, in Paris; and the National Gallery, Cape Town.
Her work is collected by public institutions including The British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum in London; MoMa, New York; LACMA, Los Angeles; Chicago Art Institute; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; CU Galleries, University of Colorado, Boulder; the Pompidou, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Institut du Monde Arabe, Dior collection and the Louvre, in Paris; Barjeel Art Foundation and Sharjah Art Museum, UAE; the DIFC and Farjam Collection, Dubai; Groupe Lhoist Collection, Limelette, Belgium; Burger Collection in Zurich and Hong Kong; Neue Galerie am Joanneum, Graz, Austria; and the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. She won the 2013 Daniel and Florence Guerlain Contemporary Drawing Prize in Paris.
(1) Extract from “Show me what you draw and I tell you who you are”, an interview with Susan Hefuna by Bettina Mathes, Flash Art Magazine, November-December 2010.