Sandstorm IV, 2022

The paintings from this series are the result of very quick gestures. These gestures propose a continuous confrontation with time: the work has to remain buried under the spices for a period, then exhumed and turned over– encrustations of material viscosities are formed, which like the tea grounds in Ben Hamouda’s previous series Prediction become a tool for reading fortunes and future events.

These are works that, as is often the case with Ben Hamouda’s practice, straddle the line between two states. It seems that if we could scratch beneath the surface we might find figuration, as if abstraction were a kind of fog to be passed through to enter the work. As such, figuration and abstraction reverberate against one another.

For Ben Hamouda, the process of painting draws parallels to the art of calligraphy, wherein the writer keeps a blank page next to the final work as a surface to “warm the hand,” or exercise the motions. The paintings in the same sense precede her sculptures – as in the iron calligraphic works of the Aniconism as Figurative Urgency series.

The colors in the series are made in the studio using different spices, oil, ash and charcoal. They have an intense smell, very spicy but also unctuous, reminiscent of incense. In an investigation of her own experiences, the colors chosen weave the lexicon of family traumas, those that are passed down through generations and which have to do with geography, geopolitics, language and vocabulary, misunderstanding and violence. These colors have an energy related to flags, cultures, wars, pride, anger, sudden strength – and curses.