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Oh, to be in Venice for the 55th edition of the largest and most prestigious international art exhibit in the world – the Venice Biennale.
By all accounts, curator Massimiliano Gioni’s Encyclopedic Palace is a great success offering what many are hailing as a much-needed refreshing and cohesive look at contemporary art. With 88 countries represented in the official Biennale program and another 50 collateral events being mounted by non-profits and individual artists, Venice is over flowing with sensory stimulation – as if it weren’t already.
We have been happy to find that mosaic has its place at the 2013 Biennale. Egyptian, Italian, Spanish, Icleandic and Welsh artists have used mosaic as their medium of choice for wall art, sculpture and even a rather odd video. This is the first of three articles on MAN where we’ll cover the mosaics of the Biennale. We’re using it to focus on the work of one of our favorite artists, Mohamed Banawy. There is much more to come . . .
Khaled Zaki & Mohamed Banawy – Treasuries of Knowledge The Egyptian Pavilion at the Giardini
Egyptian artists Khaled Zaki and Mohammed Banawy responded to the Biennale’s theme of The Encyclopedic Palace with Treasuries of Knowledge, an installation consisting of several bronze, steel and granite sculptures by Zaki and and two large-scale mosaic works by Banawy.
According to Zaki, who was also the curator for the exhibit, Treasuries of Knowledge is an attempt to visualize Man’s quest for knowledge at the intersection of Nature’s infinite wisdom and what Man learns for himself as he walks – and alters – the face of Earth.
Over time Human has learned that his life and his afterlife are dependent upon his treasuries of knowledge. Different pieces (in the exhibit) are showing the two cycles and some important crossing points through the different eras of the human life – and his continuous trials to reveal the power behind the universe. – Khaled Zaki March 2013
It is exciting to see that the Egyptian Pavilion has been singled out by various media as exceptional; The Culture Trip included Treasuries in their “Best of the 2013 Venice Biennale” and the installation was named a “Highlight” by Australia’s Broadcasting Company.
Banawy’s work with clay is always firmly rooted in what he feels is that material’s primordial linkage to his country. For him, clay is the literal DNA of Egypt. Below, a quote from Luca Maggio’s interview with the artist from a previous article on MAN:
Being one of the basic elements of Creation, The Mud (clay) is the secret of life and its eternity . . . from Mud, not only Mankind is created, but everything else as well . . . When I am forming units of Mosaic Mud, I feel warmth and as if I am a part and parcel of this great Universe; these units are the Great Egyptian Heritage.
His abstract aerial views reveal the geological and cultural topography of Egypt; fallow land meets teeming city and the hovels of the poor encroach upon the enclaves of the wealthy. Banawy juxtaposes his hand-formed, often jewel-like smaller tesserae against larger, flatter planes of pressed and embossed clay. The resulting “map” takes the viewer on a journey into Egypt’s past and present.
The artist describes his creative process on his website:
I can see the whole world and feel it once my eyes fall on a huge mosaic panel that was formed unconsciously, with no intention at all; in which all the creatures played a role. Two of these creatures are the Goodness that builds the cities and the Evil that destroys them. As when we build a house or implant a tree or when we have a demonstration, we do put a piece or some stones to form this huge panel. Same as when we destroy a house, we do participate in a particular change in its texture by applying some different tentacles and spaces that should happen as they are destined to be there. That’s why I see the world through a mosaic panel where its features are keep on changing since the Universe has been created and until Resurrection.
Banawy’s great love for his country is equally evident in The River, an abstract waterfall that flows from wall to floor in glittering fragments. If The Valley is the footprint of Man upon the Earth, then The River is the flow of knowledge that Nature offers with its infinite power and innate beauty.
We are excited about seeing the Egyptian Pavilion for ourselves when we’re in Venice this fall. Until then, we have Mr. Banawy to thank for these transporting images. Enjoy – Nancie
- “The Best of the 2013 Venice Biennale” The Culture Trip here
- Interview with Mohamed Banawy by Luca Maggio here
- Mohamed Banawy’s website here
MORE FROM THE BIENNALE
- Mosaics of the 2013 Venice Biennale Part 2: Tadeii (Venice), Sigurdardóttir (Iceland) & Williams (Wales) here
- Mosaics of the 2013 Venice Biennale Part 3: Domingo Zapata translated by Koko Mosaico of Ravenna here
- Mosaics of the 2013 Venice Biennale Part 4: Zhanna Kadyrova at the Ukranian Pavilion here.