Art

Fatma Shanan

by Alison Roberts | 23.03.17

Rooted in place and tradition, artist Fatma Shanan’s work explores identity in relation to locality. Her hometown, her culture, Shanan’s presence is felt by the symbols and locations of her life. Born and raised in the northern village of Julis, Shanan’s work reflects Druze culture, gender, and most notably—herself. Deeply autobiographical, Shanan’s work is both visually intoxicating and universally relatable.

Untitled, 2016, oil on canvas, 80x90 cm, private collection, USA
Untitled, 2016, Oil on Canvas

Reversing notions of vulnerability, Shanan’s work presents a landscape of femininity rarely observed. Challenging norms of self-presentation, female physicality, and power, the young women Shanan depicts invert our most basic assumptions. The figures exist ambiguously—their backs turned, identity indistinguishable. Prevailing against their gender, their age, their anonymity; the figures occupy the scene, demand attention, and most impressively, revert back our very gaze. They, themselves are the ones looking at us.

Untitled, 2016, oil on canvas, 120x180 cm, private collection, USAUntitled, 2016, Oil on Canvas

Inseparable from the location, and the culture that raised her, the village of Julis places each work within the context of Shanan’s life. The town—it’s surrounding fields and built landscapes, each location appears raw, Shanan’s presence apparent through her symbol of choice. Found ubiquitously in her work, the artist’s carpets appear where they are least expected. They blanket the earth, transform rooftops into mosaics of color and texture, drape across balconies.

Balcony #2, 2011, oil on canvas, 90x120 cm, private collection, USA Balcony #2, 2011, Oil on Canvas

House #3, 2014, oil on canvas, 120x180 cm, private collection, HerzliyaHouse #3, 2014, Oil on Canvas

Carefully directing each scene, Shanan’s presence is both elusive and apparent. There is strength in her self-confrontation. Paying homage to one’s home, to one’s culture, perhaps the most significant ode to oneself.


Shanan’s solo exhibition will be held this June at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
To learn more about the artist, visit her website.

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