Exhibition of works by German-Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna on view at Pi Artworks

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Exhibition of works by German-Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna on view at Pi Artworks
Susan Hefuna, Beyond, 2014, Fabric, 148 x 50 cm / each.

ISTANBUL.- German-Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna works and exhibits internationally across a wide range of media, including drawing, sculpture, and installation as well as video, photography and performance. Coinciding with a major solo show organized by the Sharjah Art Foundation, Hefuna’s second solo show with Pi Artworks Istanbul focuses on her textile works - the first time they have been exhibited together in a collection. Together, they explore the visual and cultural signifiers that have come to embody her unique inter-cultural identity.

Susan Hefuna has been creating her striking graffiti-like textile works since 2001. Encompassing costumes, installations and textile wall pieces, she draws on a variety of influences and traditions from around the world and, in doing so, has developed her own unique artistic language. Her textile works are informed by the aesthetics of Africa and Japan, the traditional craft of American quilts and storytelling, with their iconic layered cloth patchworks, as well as the Egyptian heritage of tent making, or Khayamiya, of Old Cairo. Using Egyptian cotton, khayamiyas are often elaborately patterned and feature colourful appliqué designs to brighten up the interior of tents.

Hefuna also works on Egyptian cotton, creating connected dots and lines, structures familiar from her multilayered drawings, and evocative of the architectural structure of her well known large-scale mashrabiya screens, which also feature extensively in her body of work. In textile diptychs such as Here Now or in the triptych Beyond Nothing, these connected white dots and lines appear like constellations, a stellar network stretching out against a night-time sky of the black cotton, a galaxy of words, shapes and colours. She also incorporates Arabic and English letters and words, stitching them onto the fabric to create new appliqué designs, either transcribing existing words and phrases, or creating her own words. Sometimes words and letters metamorphose, turning into new images that are barely readable. At other times, the colourful collages of word and text play with multiple layers of meaning. Some refer to popular culture, as evident in Anta Omri, which refers to legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kalthoum’s songs, while others, including Sabr Gamil (‘Patience is Beautiful’), draw on traditional sayings in Arabic, English and German culture. This mixture of letters, structures, and words triggers varying emotions and feelings in the viewer, depending on their own cultural and social background and personal understanding of the many inter-cultural allusions within Hefuna’s work.

BeYond NoThing, at Pi Artworks Istanbul from 5 April – 3 May, marks the first time that a group of Hefuna’s textile works are exhibited by themselves, and embody the poetic way in which the artist examines the meaning of words beyond words, and their ability to trigger layers of memories and emotions of the observer.

Susan Hefuna creates drawings, multimedia installations, sculptures, and installation as well as video, photography and performances works. The synergy of her Egyptian-German duel identity enriches her practice. Solo exhibitions in 2014 include a major show organized by the Sharjah Art Foundation at Bait Al Serkal, Sharjah; Osthaus Museum, Hagen, Germany; Pi Artworks in both Istanbul and London; and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include Vantages at the MAD Museum in New York City (2012-13), Susan Hefuna at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago (2012); and I Love Egypt – A Temporary Learning Camp, a collaborative commission by The Serpentine Gallery, London and Townhouse, Cairo, 2011. Group exhibitions include Safar/Voyage at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver (2013) and Encounter at the Katara Arts Center in Doha (2012-13) as well as the Sydney Biennale in Australia (2012; Drawing at the 20th century at MoMA, NYC among others. Hefuna was awarded the 2013 Contemporary Drawing Prize of the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Art Foundation in Paris. She has also had her work exhibited at Fare Mondi, in both the Arsenale and Giardini at the Venice Biennale, Italy, in 2009; the Seville Biennial, Spain, 2008 and the Ninth Sharjah Biennial, UAE in 2007. Public collections include the Papko Collection, Istanbul, Turkey; Huma Kabakci Collection, Istanbul, Turkey; LACMA, Los Angeles, USA; MoMA, New York, USA; Farjam Collection, Dubai, UAE; The Louvre, Paris, France; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; British Museum, London, UK; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; HH Sheika Salama Collection, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Sheikha Manal Collection, Abu Dhabi; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; Groupe Lhoist Collection, Limelette, Belgium; Burger Collection, Zurich & Hong Kong and Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France. Publications about Susan Hefuna include Pars Pro Toto Volumes I-III with editor Hans Ulrich Obrist. Volume III was recently presented at Art Dubai 2014.

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