Aphrodite to Mars
Tunji Adeniyi Jones, Alexi Marshall, Samo Shalaby, Alina Zamanova
Curated by Nina de Maria
10 November - 15 December, 2022
Daniel Benjamin Gallery is pleased to present Aphrodite to Mars, a group exhibition of artwprks by Tunji Adeniyi Jones, Alexi Marshall, Samo Shalaby, Alina Zamanova.
"In each of these images there is a little piece of human psychology and human fate, a remnant of the joys and sorrows that have been repeated countless times in our ancestral history."
Carl Jung, On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry (1966)
“The dream world and the real world are the same”
Old fables and ancient myths have left traces that endure and resist through time: they continue to feel relevant today and influence contemporary art. The mystical works of four artists transports us into the dreamlike world of Aphrodite to Mars. Mythological and otherworldly creatures merge with unsettling women’s bodies in an enchanting as well as terrifying dimension. The metamorphoses that the bodies in the eight works perform challenge the definitions of human and non-human.
Superstitions, myths and fairy tales are the fil rouge of the of Aphrodite to Mars and they create a link from past to present. Symbolic and surreal figures are used to reinterpret the history of mythological scenes in Art History, subverting gender imbalances and marginalized histories. Therefore, myth and symbolic language is not used to alienate from reality but instead brings us in touch with the deeper layers of our own personalities.
Samo Shalaby’s two majestic works are part of series where he opens a window into his mind, full of demons and angels. Figurative Theatre is the frame for a universe of characters symbolising light and dark energies, good and evil. The figures each represent allegorical emotions or metaphorical personifications of his inner saviours and saboteurs. The sides of the painting are portals which lead into future worlds and paintings, into stories still unspoken.
Fantôme Fête, similarly, creates a passage into another dimension. A headboard is the stage for surrealist figures, displayed on two sides. They leave space for a path, inviting the viewer to step inside and walk toward the light, into a nightmare masked as a daydream.
The Promise, instead, is a metaphor for setting yourself free, and is part of his Blur Painting series.
Alexi Marshall and Alina Zamanova both investigate themes of sexuality and womanhood, inspired by mythological iconographies. In the conventional imaginary from Art History, women’s bodies, alluring but dangerous, declared themselves as objects of the gaze. Muses, femmes fatales, nymphs, gorgons and monsters carried dualities such as tempting/repelling, threatening/powerless, decadent/savage. The way that as women artists they approach women’s bodies, within those very iconographies, is unapologetic. By exposing the sexualisation of the female body in the past they take possession of such depictions, eradicating stereotypes and canons of beauty.
In Narcisuss Alexi Marhsall re-elaborates the classical and renowned Greek myth and retells it with a female protagonist, a goddess. She looks at her reflection in the water with an introspective rather than vain intention. Even more than her bodily counterpart, the girl in the water takes the characteristics of wild and bold female divinities, almost resembling a gorgon. The balance of light and darkness reveals itself through the printmaking marks.
The mosaic The Unforeseen as well is a female re-elaboration of the mythological figure of Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, and companion of the nymphs. The mischievous-looking creature seems to be the only one knowing what is about to happen. Looking over her shoulder, she holds up a glass of red wine, hinting to the tradition of the Bacchanalia. The detail of the fish jumping from the goblet, inspired by the Page of Cups tarot card, blurs the line between what is secular and divine.
In two paintings, Alina Zamanova investigates empowering relationships of friendship between women. Veronica and Distorted Reality are similar gloomy-looking fairy tales, where women’s distorted and sinister bodies emerge from dark forests. While Veronica is alone, multiple figures are intertwined in Distorted reality. In both paintings, you can sense the feeling of waking up from a nightmare, where you’ve experienced a distorted version of reality. However, the more they come forward, the more they become aware, and the more the colours get bright and hopeful for the future.
Tunji Adeniyi-Jones evokes narratives and symbolisms from West Africa, combining those with styles and colours reminiscent of European modernism. In Patterns and Rituals XVI a black female body floats in a bright vegetation, protected by two animals. By offering a glance into a hypothetical history of art he points to the absence of black figures or their minimization to concepts of primitivism. He sheds a light on ancient African counterparts of western myths and fables.