EL BEIT EL KABIR: Sherin Guirguis
The Third Line is pleased to present El Beit El Kabir, Sherin Guirguis’ second solo show in Dubai. Sherin’s new body of work, built in three parts over the past two years, incorporates a combination of sculptural forms, paintings and works on paper. Shown together for the first time, they continue an interplay between personal and public histories, more specifically taking cues from her Egyptian heritage and her experience as an Egyptian-American immigrant. Framed through the lens of her diasporic identity, the exhibition recreates the last vestiges of a connection with her homeland.
The series is anchored in three concepts—site, text and lost history. Here the site is the last architectural connection with her birthplace; the text is a Rumi poem that talks about placelessness/tracelessness that embodies the immigrant/nomadic experience; and the lost history is the narrative of many immigrants that leave behind their home, heritage and familiar faces, and have to live in a permanent liminal space of otherness.
In 2007, the local government in Luxor, Egypt demolished the Guirguis family house to widen the road, in an effort to mitigate the growth in the city’s population and to accommodate the growing tourist industry there. For Sherin, who left Egypt more than two decades ago, this severed the last remaining ties to her home and, hence, her homeland. What exists now is a synthesis of memories and photographs—the ethereal and the tangible—and she uses these as the basis of her new work.
Included in the exhibition are several works on paper where she moves between fervid gestural painting and a highly controlled manipulation of the surface. The formal contrast between the painted marks and structured geometry, the act of removal (cutting) and addition (thick, opaque paints), and the way the “darts” cut through the compositions with sharpness and speed alludes to moments of transition and transformation. Moments where dissonance and harmony exist simultaneously.
While the shape of each piece is inspired from sacred geometry that is prevalent in many ancient cultures of the East, Sherin lends a layered nuance through intricately cutting into the paper, and producing delicate latticework reminiscent of the mashrabiya. This reference to a very specific architectural detailing nods towards the lines of division drawn between the public and private spaces; the works titled Beitana, literally meaning our home in Arabic, seem to be providing a glimpse in to this lost space.
Accompanying the works on paper are a small sculptural bodies that recreate the Ollal, a traditional water vessel that is found in older households in the south of Egypt. Winged, geometric patterns, seen in her earlier large-scale sculptures, are fashioned by laser cutting aluminum panels that are then mounted on wooden bases. These vessels, unlike their very nature, do not have an opening, belying their very purpose for containing a liquid. Hence they lose all utilitarian functions and adopt only ornamental ones. The forms take on a more architectural character, monumentalizing these fragments from Sherin’s heritage. Yet they appear as ghosts of the objects they reference—the white makes the base disappear; the florescence above creates a hovering effect—suspended between presence and absence.
Through El Beit El Kabir, Sherin continues to explore what it means to identify with an idea of belonging and identity—both which bring them an imagined sense of affiliation, attachment and displacement.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;
I am not of Nature's mint, nor of the circling heavens.
I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;
I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity.
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulghar, nor of Saqsin;
I am not of the kingdom of 'Iraqain, nor of the country of Khurasan.
I am not of this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of Hell;
I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwan.
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)
Sherin GuirguisFormulations VI, 2014Mixed media on hand-cut paper50.8 x 45.7 cm
Sherin GuirguisFormulations X, 2014Mixed media on hand-cut paper50.8 x 45.7 cm
Sherin GuirguisFormulations XIV, 2014Mixed media on hand-cut paper50.8 x 45.7 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Beitana I), 2016Mixed media on hand-cut paper165 x 165 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Beitana II), 2016Mixed media on hand-cut paper132 x 132 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Beitana III), 2016Mixed media on hand-cut paper132 x 132 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Hexagon), 2015Mixed media on hand-cut paper101.6 x 117 x 5 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Octagram), 2015Mixed media on hand-cut paper117 x 117 x 5 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Olla A), 2015Wood and aluminium38.6 x 34.3 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Olla B), 2015Wood and aluminium35.6 x 32 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Olla C), 2015Wood and aluminium30.2 x 25.1 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Olla D), 2015Wood and aluminium58.4 x 26.4 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Olla E), 2015Wood and aluminium35.5 x 25.9 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Olla F), 2015Wood and aluminium45.5 x 21 cm
Sherin GuirguisUntitled (Pentagon), 2015Mixed media on hand-cut paper112 x 117 x 5 cm