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Fatima Barznge | Study of square, Zam Zam 4, 2019 Fatima Barznge | overview Study of square Fatima Barznge | overview Study of square Fatima Barznge | Study of square transformation of square pyramids Fatima Barznge | Study of square, 2018 Fatima Barznge | Study of square 7, 2018 Fatima Barznge | Detail from ZamZam 5, 2019 Fatima Barznge | Study of square 3, 2018 Fatima Barznge | Study of square 10 Fatima Barznge | ZamZam 20, 150x150 Fatima Barznge | Study of square 9, 2019 Fatima Barznge | overview Study of square

ZamZam solo Fatima Barznge


Over de expositie

 ZamZam is een studie naar het vierkant. 'Sinds 2016 is het vierkant mijn onderwerp en alle werken zijn gemaakt in een vierkant formaat. Ik haal voor deze werken inspiratie uit het geometrische vierkant in de traditionele islamitische kunst waarin het vierkant de basis van diverse patronen en composities is’. 

‘ZamZam is ontleend aan de naam van een waterbron in Mekka waar Hagar in de woestijn tussen de berg Safa en Marwa heen en weer rende op zoek naar water voor haar zoontje Ismail. Jaarlijks haasten moslims zich tijdens de bedevaart in Mekka zeven keer heen en weer tussen Safa en Merwa ter nagedachtenis aan Hagar. Ik heb dit historische verhaal voor mij zelf samengevat in een simpel diagram dat tot een serie tekeningen en schilderijen heeft geleid waarin ik binnen het statische vierkant experimenteer met dynamische driehoek- vormen’.

In deze tentoonstelling laat Fatima een selectie werk van de afgelopen vier jaar zien die uit tekeningen, schilderijen en een kunstenaarsboek bestaat. 

Het openingswoord zal verricht worden door Patty Wageman directeur Museum De Buitenplaats. 

Kathrin Wolkowicz, beeldend kunstenares en goede vriendin van Fatima, die Fatima bij het maken van het boek begeleidde, zal het boek tijdens de opening introduceren. Het kunstenaarsboek ZamZam is mede mogelijk gemaakt door stichting Fonds Kwadraat, stichting Stokroos en galerie SANAA.


A Gentle Subversion

Heleen Schröder. (text for artist book ZamZam, part of the solo exhibition)

Fatima Barznge’s recent series of drawings in acrylics and coloured pencil entitled Zamzam is a study of the square, the basic motif in Islamic art and an important shape in the pre-Islamic Babylonian civilization. Each drawing is square in format, some consisting entirely of a plane woven out of slanted, quivering lines, others subdivided diagonally in seemingly endless variations of triangular tessellations. The shift to work on paper signals a new trend for Barznge while maintaining a continuity with her earlier acrylic works on panels – dense, painstakingly built up fabrics of fine, overlapping lines, dashes or crosses. The work on paper sustains this visual language, but seems lighter, airier, and freer.

Despite their abstraction, the drawings are deeply personal, based on memories from Barznge’s youth until the age of seventeen in the northern Iraq town of Aghjalar, later destroyed by war.  She notes that these types of patterns were everywhere: ‘in my mother’s dress, in the rug on the floor, on the outside of the mosque…’ Barznge, a contemporary artist educated in the Netherlands, roots this series in the geometric patterning of Islamic art, more so than in twentieth-century precedents of abstraction and minimalism that may spring to mind on first reading.

The title of the series, Zamzam, makes this cultural connection explicit; it refers to one of Islam’s founding legends: Hajar, the mother of Ismail, is exiled in the desert at Mecca, and rushes back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah in a frantic search for water for her thirsty baby. Miraculously, God provides a source, a well in the valley between the two hills; this well is called Zamzam. The Kaaba, the cubical building in the courtyard of the Great Mosque and the holiest site of Islam, was later built near the Zamzam well, and the well is an important station of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Barznge’s father, an Islamic theologian, returned from the hajj with holy water, attributed healing powers, in a beautiful glass vial. His collection of manuscripts and calligraphy is one of the inspirations for these works on paper.

Barznge summarizes the story of Hajar in a simple diagram (see below) depicting two slopes and the Zamzam well at the base where they meet. The well is thus at the lower corner of an inverted triangle formed in the space between the mountains. It is a widely recognized, albeit discrete and coded, symbol of the woman and of female sexuality – so well-known that in some contexts, modesty prohibits the use of the triangle.

The woman Hajar is identified as a founder of the city of Mecca – an alternative reading offered not as a replacement or negation of the established narrative of the faith and the entrenched iconography of the square, but rather as a commentary, an enriching supplement, and an opening of interpretive possibilities. If the square stands for the male principle, for stability, patriarchal authority, the geometric and eternal, then the triangle represents the female, dynamism, the questioning of authority, the organic and natural. But similar to the indirect, layering of symbolic meaning in Islamic art, Barznge presents her veiled critique in an abstract, oblique way, with a tact that is indispensable in opening up a discussion of taboo subjects. She offers her gentle subversion in a web of vibrating lines, enlivening and softening the strict principles of the base form.

Rotterdam, May 2019