Saturday, April 2, 2011

BEAUTY: Art--Dahlia Elsayed

Dahlia Elsayed’s work fascinates me. There is something about her deceptively simple oeuvre that rivets me and speaks to me on a very emotional and abstract level.

Maybe it is the sense of maps, cartography and landscape on which she bases her pieces. On my first airplane trip when I was a little boy, I was enthralled by how the land looked from high above: the neat rows of streets and houses, the placement of and the relationship between sections of towns and cities, and the orderly squares of fields and farms. Even now when I fly, I think to myself, “The world looks so harmless and manageable from above, so unlike life on the ground.” I have an emotional and psychic reaction to the change of perspective and it is clear that Elsayed's maps are of internal, psychological landscapes.

Or maybe it is the element of organization in Elsayed’s work that appeals to me. I am a list-maker from way back, which I am sure is an extension of the need to attempt to control, somewhat, the uncontrollable life that whips around us everyday. Her use of language echoes other great artists whose works use words to great effect such as the legendary painter Ed Ruscha and Barbara Kruger. And like controversial film director Peter Greenaway who is obsessed with cataloging, listing and collecting, I too feel a need to put like things with like things, make patterns, and express a feeling of unity. Interestingly, a by-product of this need to catalog and unite is to isolate things from other things or from their milieu, the environment or habitat that created them. Elsayed’s work is infused with a sense of profound isolation and helplessness. Words or banners with phrases are pinned to lonely regions far from each other. They exist at the same time but without benefit of communication, support, or comfort from each other. Sometimes her words or phrases form a narrative, but even then, each piece of the narrative seems disconnected. For example, in “Three Year Triptych,” Elsayed shows us what seems to be a thought which sums up each of three years in a row… and it was obviously a rough three years. These thoughts are tied to a time frame and to events which we can only imagine. Then in “All The Invisible,” we seem to be making a journey from micro to macro—we may even be talking about physics—but each of these elements require distinctly different points of view. We are always marooned in time and space, perceiving each moment and area one at a time. These limitations are what keep us alive but forever separate from one other. Through her marvelous works, Dahlia Elsayed reminds me of the universal yearning for connection and transcendence.

Top to bottom: All The Invisible; August Landscape; Fog and Other Rolling Things; Jobs, Cars, Cities, Drugs; Oh, Everything; Start of the Pre-season detail; That Thing That Happened Yesterday; Three Year Triptych

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