Venus Palestina—Fatima Abu Roomi Hues of royal red, the warmth and glow of splendid heavy fabric, run like crimson threads through Fatima Abu Rumi’s new paintings. Ornamental floral motifs intertwined with strands of gold take on sundry configurations that the body has pressed into them. In the absence of a body, they stand as a silent monument that the painter, with delicate and concentrated movements of her thin brushes, has seemingly woven into them. Dark tassels on a yellow and orange chain, alternately evoking jewels and garlands, embellish the
fringes of the cloth. The painting concurrently offers precise details and rejects illusory depth. The nature of the representation nods to the Islamic miniature tradition but enlarges it, amplifies it, and diverts it toward additional paintings in the cycle that reverberate with Byzantine icons— they, too, connected with the volatile and rich cultural history of the place. Finally, the title of the exhibition, “Venus Palestine,” turns the tables and refutes the understandings initially formed by the gaze, which marvels at the high qualities of the works. How do multiple and ostensibly clashing elements give Fatima Abu Rumi’s artistic world its form?
It is description that emulates reality, mimesis as perceived in the ancient world, that the artist instrumentalizes to convey messages and ideas; it does not necessarily serve as a technical goal per se. Abu Roomi deliberately allows two elements, one mimetic and the other cultural-symbolic, to mingle. The metaphor of Venus-Aphrodite—the classical world’s goddess of fertility and beauty—is almost totally baseless in the staged scenes in which Abu Roomi places her father. In her various appearances in European painting from the Renaissance onward, many artists have invoked the goddess to portray nude females laying on white silk sheets and red velvet coverings, as a .symbol of celestial love whereas her attire symbolizes love in the here-and-now.