Wael Shawky, one of Egypts most prominent contemporary artists, is displaying a selection of his work at the Walker Art Gallery
from Friday 1 July Monday 29 August 2011 as part of the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival
Shawky has exhibited internationally, with shows at the Venice and Istanbul Biennales. His work is concerned with the complex relationship between politics and religion, fundamentalism and capitalism, religious ritual and the role of media. It examines transitional events in the medieval and modern history of the Arab world, such as the first Crusades of 1096-1099 and the 1981 assassination of President Sadat. These themes have come into sharp focus through the recent upheavals in Egypt and the Middle East.
The display has been co-curated by head of fine art at the Walker Art Gallery, Ann Bukantas and Eckhard Thiemann from the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival. Ann Bukantas says:
Were thrilled to be exhibiting Wael Shawkys work and collaborating with the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival. The themes that Wael examines, such as politics and religion , are timeless but are particularly pertinent at this time. His interest in museums and their collections is also in evidence in this project and we are pleased to be able to offer a context of such relevance to his work
The collection of painted flags and drawings being exhibited at the Walker come from his recent body of work, Cabaret Crusades. Cabaret Crusades examines the causes and effects of religious war and its impact on European and Arab relations, questioning who pulls the strings of history. By confusing the roles of aggressors and victims, it challenges established notions of good and evil.
Central to this is his film Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File (screening at the Bluecoat, 3 July at 3.00pm), a retelling of the crusades starring 200 year-old marionettes from the Italian Lupi Collection. The fantastical drawings going on display were created before and during the making of the film and reflect Shawkys thought processes. They illustrate fairytale-like interactions between imaginary beasts, landscapes, architecture and nature. Their imagery includes objects from museum collections that inspired the artist, as well as details of contemporary life or locations. Their seemingly innocent and child-like qualities stand in stark contrast to the troubled histories the events gave rise to.
The flags, resembling abstract paintings, refer to crusader heraldry and are made of dark, sparkling tarmac. Shawkys use of industrial materials like tarmac and silver paint relates to the status of oil in the modern world. These elements also reflect Shawkys intention to connect contemporary geo-political power relationships with historical events.