As the previous one, the paintings of Bulldozer combine the use of manipulated plastic sheets together with the distortion of images from various sources.
The bulldozer which appears in some of the paintings and gives the title to the exhibition, epitomizes the deconstruction and reposition affecting the people and the society, either in a cynical satire or playful reimagining. Bulldozer reflects the sarcasm of human and social behavior and relationships.
New technologies and social network extensively impact our lives. Without realizing it, we spend hours looking at – sometimes admiring, other people lives through their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Photoshop and Instagram provide the best version of ourselves on millions of screens.
But what kind of lives are we actually witnessing? Are these relationships solid, consistent? Is the image on the screen mirroring the reality we live in?
Hany Rashed tackles this issue with his typical caustic humour in his latest body of work titled Bulldozer, a project that investigates social and human relationships through the lens of a distorted yet strongly Egyptian-connoted reality.
Bulldozer builds on other previous phases of Rashed’s career, closing the circle. The idea firstly sparkled in 2014 while he was working on Toys, a project that aims to reconstruct Egypt and the Egyptian society in miniature through a playful strategy: crooked figurines resembling toys for kids recreated typical scenes of everyday life where tok tok, stray animals, men wearing gallabya and women with hijab all move together in the chaos of Cairene streets. The use of plastic and the manipulation of images were at the centre of Toys, which was the initial stage for thinking about society and social roles, with their fake plastic identity. Bulldozer moves a step forward not only aesthetically, but also in its conceptual approach. The project indeed combines the use of manipulated plastic sheets together with the distortion of images from various sources and the addition of telling extra elements.
On the aesthetic level, the use of plastic sheets resembles the digital art and the photographic effect. An extensive collection of random photos from social networks is the starting point from where the work has developed: again, the favourite subject are common people portrayed in scenes of everyday life. The artist manually reproduces the photos through a technique which merges together the ‘painting in reverse’ with the support of the printed image and a later edit of the image itself. Details and other elements are added on the front, either through drawing or collage, thus creating a sort of three-dimensional effect of this, indeed, plastic world. All the photos portrayed undergo a distortion either in a cynical or in a playful reimagining: some are stretched to the point that the whole image alter its perspective, in others people have plants springing from their heads or little animals coming out from their cut body parts in a triumph of brilliant, full bright and at times psychedelic colours.
What is behind these aesthetic choices and interventions? Collage, a distinguishing feature in Rashed’s previous work, while reinforcing the idea of the Photoshop editing, is used as well to include in the paintings extra elements only apparently random: insects and plants are loaded with contrasting symbolic meanings. Insects, which Rashed has extensively used in his initial monoprints, return here with a different look but still in close relation with people. They do not only alter the normality of the scene, but also resemble, in their engagement with humans, a sort of incomplete metamorphosis. Furthermore, cactuses and thorns recall our testy mind and the emotional distress brought at times by social interactions. A plant with thorns emerging from a cut head of a pretty lady expresses the difficulties she processes every day, as much as the molluscs of the back of a blue-skinned man denounces his sliminess behind the social mask both of them constantly wear.
The distortion of the images and the presence of repulsive and disturbing elements leads to the creation of a parallel, dystopic and at times morbid world where everything is subverted: colours, proportions, sizes and the relations between the portrayed subjects. The result of a disillusion towards human behaviours and relationships, Bulldozer satirically portrays the Egyptian society with its subjects and their limits and weaknesses.
However, although Rashed pushes the boundaries of the social disenchantment which invades the work, he seems nonetheless to acknowledge a sort of everlasting hope towards humans embodied by certain plants and flowers, typically associated with life and rebirth, scattered in the paintings.
It is within this frame that the bulldozer moves: we may ask what – or rather who, metaphorically, is the bulldozer? A destroying power eager to change the surrounding environment, the bulldozer acts as a deconstructing force yet not excluding the chance for rebuilding for the better.
Moving from the most natural element of contemporaneity- being social networks and our experiences shared on them, Rashed builds a complex analysis of modern times, where surprising mishmashes coexist side by side in the world’s chaos and confusion.