Recumbent Figure | Fatma Shanan
- TechniqueOil on canvas
By: Sophia Dekel Caspi
Fatma Shanan, born in Druze village Julis, has a BA from the Art Institute in Oranim Academic College, Kiryat Tivon, lives in Ramat Gan and creates in Tel Aviv. Her paintings draw on her surroundings, art history, and her daily experiences as a contemporary artist in a traditional minority society.
The decorative motif of the ethnic carpets that the artist borrows from her close environment is pivotal in her work - an icon symbolizing her cultural/social, personal and collective world, and masterfully expresses the complex dialogue of her existence.
In her previous works, Shanan positioned the carpet in realistic, deliberately-staged perspectives: in the street in front of her house, spread in the scenic trails nearby her home, or on the floor at her parents’ balcony, a splendid bedding for the white plastic chairs, iconic among certain sectors of Israeli society.
The name of this piece, Recumbent Figure, is in dialogue with the famous odalisques of Neoclassic painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), and the oriental odalisques of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and others. As opposed to the odalisque openly presenting herself, enticing and sensual, and at times frigid, Shanan’s tribute in the recumbent figure in front of us is protesting against the male gaze through which the odalisque (a female slave in a Turkish harem) was presented in the history of art up until the previous century.
Shanan’s work sheds light on a self portrait taking in complex layers of an aesthetic and ethic, cultural and religious reality, into which Shanan is woven. The dress and the bedding is a metaphor of her being. Shanan is lying down, bundled up inside a floral fabric, against floor tiles patterned with a dull geometric motif, reminiscent of the aesthetics of her origin - her parents’ living room in the village.
The figure’s head is showing from the back, entrenched in the center of the composition like an offering on the altar, and the tile crossroad symbolizes an ideal separation between body and mind. The position closes on the composition, and the figure’s back is turned to us, preventing access to her inner world. The colors are not scathing as we usually see in the exotic image attributed to the odalisque’s environment; instead, they evaporate. The composition is served in a partial close-up, asking to formulate the enigma of her excluding coil. Past, present and future reveal a womb in the making.