The fourth instalment of our Berliner Luft series presents works from Israeli Druze artist Fatma Shanan Shanan joined the gallery program in 2019 with her solo show titled Yellow Skirt, comprised of a series of figurative-abstract oil paintings. Shanan’s presentation for Berliner Luft, however, features a rarely-seen video work, titled Carpets on a Flat Roof (2017).
Shanan’s work resonates with personal, cultural, and religious memories, referencing the traditions of her Arabic minority group. Carpets on a Flat Roof depicts an aerial view of a performative intervention in her native Julis, a Druze village in northern Israel. In a choreographed act, a group of men and women carry and unroll traditional oriental carpets on the rooftop of her childhood home. The layered rugs, a staple of Druze aesthetics, are displaced from their domestic, indoor space, dramatically transforming the roof into a colorful and unexpected garden of patterns. For Shanan, the carpets represent part of the intimate self, embodying heritage and her unique position within the traditional culture. In Carpets on a Flat Roof, this intimate self is exposed to the open sky in a powerful and vulnerable orchestrated gesture, performed by the community. The video was produced with support from Artis, New York.
Influenced by the nineteenth- and twentieth-century European traditions of realist painting, Shanan strives to deconstruct firm definitions concerning painting as well as gender roles and ethnic identities. In many of her paintings, carpets are positioned in contradiction to, or are integrated with, self-portraits and female figures. In Self-Portrait and a Carpet #4 (2020), the artist herself is seen, blending in with and fading out of an ornate iconography in gold and red. In the earlier work Mother, Child and Necklace (2016), Shanan’s disjointed composition of two figures, patterned shapes, and flattened space mirror the complexity of familiar or communal relationships. Both works are on view for the first time in the gallery, presented alongside the video installation.