In her first solo gallery exhibition in London, acclaimed Moroccan artist, Ghizlane Sahli utilises her remarkable understanding of space and form to present a series of three-dimensional bas-reliefs, as well as drawings and sculpture, in an exhibition in which she invites us on an inner and organic journey into the human body.
By utilizing discarded materials, such as the carefully cleaned and cut tops of water bottles - the detritus of a consumer society - Ghizlane Sahli allows this 'rubbish' to transcend its lowly, throwaway status. Through the deft application of silken sabra (vegetable silk) ribbons, these individual elements are arranged on wire mesh into representations of the organs and viscera of the body. This transformation can be seen as an act of care and love. As the artist notes:
This work is an exploration of the human body. Each artwork is a zoom into different parts of the body. I have seen thousands of parts of the body, and having those images in mind I have tried to express them through my work. This is my first work as a solo artist. I needed to explore a universal subject: a subject to which we were all connected regardless of the notions of education, religion, gender or society. The human body was the best metaphor I could find and through it I wanted to work on emotion. As I said in an interview with Mouna Anajar, I always have that idea in mind, of a big hand taking the human body and shaking it, to 'clean it', from all the 'pollutions' brought by education, religion or society, and keeping just the core of it, the pure part. It is that part that I want to show as a tribute to our body.
The very title of the exhibition, evoking 'tripe' with all its associations of food (especially the parts of an animal carcass that are seen as 'secondary' or even disgusting are now made delicious, shimmering and seen as essential parts of a working body: a whole body. The fact that this is human 'tripe' is also significant. These bodily elements are the same which drive the body machine and cleanse it, regulates it, processes our nutrition and pumps blood throughout. They are what makes us live. By concentrating on this universalising aspect, the artist reminds us that what may seem morbid or distasteful is in fact what keeps us alive and able to interact with each other; the viscera are what make us what we are.
The artist, whose initial training in Paris was in the field of architecture, uses shape, arrangement and physical presence in space to create abstract assemblages of individual concave elements that together harmonise into groupings that evoke the organic while in some ways bearing no direct comparison or model in nature itself. The components making up these works, which stand proud from their flat base, are in fact the tops of recycled plastic bottles, meticulously enrobed in silk thread, giving each texture, lustre and an optical quality that varies depending on the viewer's position and the light conditions in which they are seen.
These shimmering, jewel-like constructions, speak of the transformative power that a concern for the environment - coupled with a technical mastery of material and deep understanding of the workings of shape and form in space - can evoke for both the artist and the viewer.
These bas-reliefs present a unique and powerful statement of what makes us, at the most fundamental level, people; and what truly ties all humanity together: a commonality of biology and anatomy that cannot be denied or divided by cultures, creeds or political systems.
This important exhibition offer London-based patrons of African art an opportunity to see a fresh and exciting new voice in the continent's constellation of up-and-coming contemporary artists.