A Single Continuum

Curator: Carmit Blumensohn

Fatma Shanan’s works resonate with personal, familial, historical, cultural, and religious memories. Her paintings raise personal questions concerning one’s place in the personal, familial, social, and communal sphere, as well as social and political questions concerning otherness and difference, contrasts and identity, and the obsessive search for what is familiar, known, and safe.

The concern with the image of the carpet is a means of exploring the complex identity of a young Druze woman born in Israel, where Jewish society is generally characterized by a lack of openness to difference and to the other. By means of her concern with the image of the carpet and its integration into the lived sphere she depicts in her paintings, Shanan attends to the complex processes that construct her identity. This identity is woven out of values, ideologies, social codes and traditions, a sense of belonging, aspirations and dreams. Her art transforms

the presence of the carpet into a central theme, while showcasing a display of deeply moving beauty. This is her tactic for luring the viewer into her world.

These carpets represent a multi-cultural encounter that gives expression to the connection between tradition and innovation, East and West, Islam, the Druze religion, and Judaism, art and craft, tradition and the avant-garde. Throughout the Mediterranean basin, carpets weave a web of meanings and represent local traditions of hospitality; they may be associated with effacement, rejection, and concealment, since whatever is not agreed upon is metaphorically swept under the carpet; alternately, everything one is proud of is flaunted upon their surfaces.

Shanan does not transform her paintings into carpets, but rather represents carpets within them as distinct painterly images. Each painting is thus transformed into a weave whose quality as a “carpet” is similarly revealed when the painted image is a landscape, an olive tree, a floor, a pair of jeans, or a blouse worn by a girl lying on the floor. The brushstrokes flicker and dance together with the local light, which is present in all of her paintings. The earth, and the sky, the landscape are all familiar signifiers charged with a sense of home and belonging.

A carpet offers an invitation to dwell; it is a sphere of containment, an extension of the idea of home as opposed to the external sphere. During weddings and family celebrations, carpets are spread out over the nearby road to mark the location of the celebration. Carpets are similarly spread out in the courtyard to mark places for rest. Wherever it is spread out, the carpet constitutes stable base.

The dense, fleshy, sensual colors of Shanan’s canvases define them as a space of reflection. Color becomes a power in its own right, transforming the various existential components of the works into a single continuum and taking on a personal, autonomous character shaped by the artist’s love of painting. The images become abstract only if the viewer is willing to move beyond their mimetic role, beyond the figurative representations that anchor them, enabling them to be born and take off. From this point on, the sky is the limit, and the carpet – regardless of whether it flies into the heavens or remains affixed to the earth, constitutes a path, a trajectory, an entire world.