Review: Aasiya Evans’s ‘Orientalism & Imperialism: Veiled, Unveiled and Reviled’ ·
Spectrum Project Space ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·
Aasiya Evans’s solo exhibition at Spectrum Project Space utilises digital engagement and iconography in a piercing commentary on the representations of Arab Muslim stereotypes in the post 9/11 world.
On entering the first gallery space, it would be easy to think that the fourteen wall hangings were historical tapestries. Recognisable Oriental symbols and patterns catch the eye, rich in colour and complexity, reminiscent of a Persian carpet.
Closer inspection, however, reveals contemporary images: an array of helicopters, with Western flags superimposed; missiles and warheads, branded with Anglo-Saxon symbolism, pointing at a mosque; tanks occupying a sacred space; military-grade bullets framing a religious text; the Star of David in a maze. These vibrant images have been digitally printed onto woven polyester – as though new awareness is being woven into traditional forms, inviting us to question the Islamophobic status quo. Evans reminds of the constructs we have applied to our perception of the Middle East. In Unveiled, for instance, a Muslim woman looks out at us, as if asking us “Do you see me or do you only see my niqab?” This set of fourteen art works is as confronting as it is breathtaking.
In the second gallery space, Evans has constructed four sculptures out of hard clay. These seem to be an expression of the way in which Western media has dehumanised Islam, stripping it of beauty and religiosity and focusing instead on the “oppressed” Arab Muslim female. The sculptures are reminiscent of pillars, a representation of the foundations of the religion. In this context, religion is like a plant that, left alone, flourishes. When an outside force continually strikes at its environment, however, its existence is compromised, stripped; the cylinders on two of the structures have been exposed, cut into, with leaves receding at the base.
Adjacent to these structures is a projected audio-visual installation, a monochrome kaleidoscope of motifs and symbols, through which the East and West collide. The movement of these emblems – each laden with its own meaning – speaks to the way in which culture and traditions intersect in our world; layering, spinning, shearing, multiplying, disappearing, reappearing.
Evans has successfully and commendably created works which are multi-dimensional and thought-provoking in the way they approach our biases.
Pictured top: A detail from ‘The Plague’ by Aasiya Evans.