UNIVERSAL STRANGERS. 3 exhibitions curated by Rosa Martínez
Filomena Soares Gallery. Lisboa, Portugal. 16 January - 22 February, 2003


Although she describes herself as a painter and has won international recognition thanks to her exquisite abstract canvases embroidered with erotic motifs, Ghada Amer is a multi-talented artist. Drawing, sculpture, installations and garden design are an integral part of her work and are pervaded by the same aesthetic and ideological concerns. The quest for formal beauty, the lack of communication in love relationships, the submission of women to the tyranny of domestic life and the celebration of sexual desire and female pleasure constitute the territory that forms the background against which she constructs her discourses.
Ghada Amer was born in Cairo in 1963, studied Fine Arts in France and today lives in New York. Her changes of geographical, linguistic, aesthetic and emotional location are reflected in her artistic output. Her painting is moulded by the idea of shifting meanings and the appropriation of the languages of abstract expressionism; her drawings evince a questioning of the roles imposed on women; and her urban works unearth the connection between embroidery and gardening as specifically feminine activities. Despite the differences between her Islamic upbringing and the models of behaviour that apply in Western culture, Ghada Amer alludes to universal problems, such as the domination of women, which are prevalent in different cultures.

Her exhibition in the Filomena Soares Gallery in Lisbon is the first one-person show she has put on in Portugal. It brings together intimate drawings and paintings such as The Little Girl, 2001 and Untitled (New Grid), 2000, along with photographs of the gardens that she has designed in various parts of the world: Cactus Painting (Unfinished), 1998, at the Roman Theatre in Sagunto, Valencia; Love Park, 1999, at SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; Women qualities, 2000, at the Busan Metropolitan Museum in Korea; or Hoy el 70% de los pobres del mundo son mujeres, 2001, in the Rambla del Raval in Barcelona. The show is completed by Les Poufs, 2002, a sculpture in the form of a block puzzle, inviting the viewer to play. The surfaces of the cubes are decorated with coloured lines that, when the cubes are put together in the right combination, form images of couples. The idea of chance as a feature of amorous adventures is clearly reflected in this work, which can be seen as a metaphor of her obsessions: displacement, the bella (o impossibile) combinazione in affective relationships, surprise, the happiness of ideal love, and loss, as well as the questioning of identity conceived as something static.

Rosa Martínez