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Aldin's Gift



Jamelie Hassan
13 November – 22 December 1996


London, Ontario artist Jamelie Hassan has been exhibiting since the mid-1970s. In recent years, her work has been recognized in international group exhibitions such as Trade Routes at the New Museum, New York; Le Milieu du Monde in Sete, France; and The End(s) of the Museum at the Fundació Antoni Tąpies of Barcelona, Spain. Although she has exhibited extensively in Canada and abroad, the AGYU exhibition will be her first solo public gallery exhibition in Toronto.

Jamelie Hassan's art draws upon her experiences as a Canadian born to Lebanese parents. She interweaves these experiences with existing texts, parables, and found cultural artifacts to create works that examine issues of cultural displacement. Recent installations such as The Conference of the Birds (1991), Si-Murgh et la Montagne du Lotus, Chine (1993), Even Onto China (1993Š95), The Copyist (1995) and Good News (1996) reflect this interlacing of archaic sources and personal history. In the last few years, Hassan's continuing explorations into her own cultural heritage have resulted in a body of work focused on the subject of the Arabic manuscript and its uses of language, narrative and translation.

Hassan's 1995 installation The Copyist takes as its departure point a modest reference to a lost manuscript transcribed by a female copyist from Baghdad. On a wall of the gallery, cut-out copper diacritic marks in Arabic script surround a large photograph of an infant in his cradle (an early photograph of Hassan's son). The photograph is intended to invoke the female copyist who transcribed the lost book Sihah al Jawhari while watching over her infant son, rocking his cradle with her foot as she wrote. The diacritic marks serve as visual devices for sound and verbal enunciation. The infant relates to both the emergence of language (corresponding to Hassan's own early introduction to spoken Arabic), and the potentially multiple positions of a mother assuming the privileged role of the copyist. Also in the installation is an original 17th-century Arabic/Persian grammar manuscript containing commentaries, Koranic texts, and painted images. Hassan's exhibition Aldin's Gift includes The Copyist as well as her most recent works, Good News (1996) and Slippers of Disobedience (1996), which incorporate photographic images of the manuscript pages with ceramic elements.

A catalogue, co-published by the AGYU and the Art Gallery of Windsor, will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue will include portions of a public discussion held last year at the Art Gallery of Ontario, with participants: Jamelie Hassan, Homi Bhabha, and Monika Kin Gagnon.

This exhibition is produced with the assistance of The Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council-Material Assistance Grant. Additional thanks to Salah Bachir, Tariq Hassan-Gordon and Jen Metcalfe.
Art Gallery of York University | Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street | Toronto ON M3J 1P3 | agyu [at] yorku.ca