The title of Al-Hadid’s exhibition, “Mock Sun”, is derived from the artist’s recent encounter of a parahelio, a natural phenomenon in which the sky suddenly displayed three suns. Upon researching this magical sight, Al-Hadid discovered the German 16th-century manuscript, “The Book of Miracles,” which depicts in rich luminous detail, a collection of illustrations of unexplained natural celestial phenomenon including parahelios, blood rains, insect invasions, and comets carrying swords. The manuscript is a spectacular discovery for Renaissance art that reflects apocalyptic anxieties that emerge during times of dramatic cultural shifts. Bold paintings that illustrate a host of unexplained astronomical visions with mythological and religious narratives alike, presented as a scientific treatise. The book has been a direct inspiration for the artist but has been altered and transformed through Al-Hadid’s technique and process. However, the subject matter is the same and always relevant; humankind’s everlasting immutable longing for grace, for mercy, and for the miraculous.
Al-Hadid is known for her elevated sculptures and wall panels which seems to melt or harden, caught in a chemical phase change from one state to the next. She has developed a unique process of using traditional and contemporary materials such as polymer gypsum, steel, plaster, fiberglass, wood, polystyrene, cardboard, wax, and paint. The wall panels balance somewhere between fresco and tapestry, they seem to almost float on the walls. The lofty sculpture showed in “Mock Sun” is also a reference to art from centuries past. The work is a second in a series of five large-scale sculptures that imagine a number of possible futures for the central figure in Hans Memling’s painting “Allegory of Chastity” (1475). The painting depicts a primly posed woman sitting inside the crest of a mountain, wearing the rock as a skirt, her hands politely folded in front. Freed from her mountainous “chastity belt” in this new sculpture, the jagged mountains are replaced by new landscapes and structures. These new propositions introduce both narrative and material developments as well as giving new life to the figure after the painting. Now that the female figure is free from her prior constraints, while surrounded by the volcanic and apocalyptic imagery of her panel work throughout the exhibition, one might pose the question: What happens when her volcano erupts? Where does she go?
Born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1981, Al-Hadid immigrated as a five-year-old child to Ohio, USA. Her art is often described as metaphorical bridges between the Middle Eastern world of her early childhood and the Western world she now inhabits. She is known for a practice that spans media and scale and examines the historical frameworks and perspectives that shape our material and cultural assumptions. Al-Hadid’s works carry with them indications of a diverse set of interests and inspirations, including mythology, architecture, literature cosmology and physics, to investigate intersections that materialise through exchange and appropriation.