Grove Collective and Backhaus Projects are pleased to present the upcoming exhibition Fingerprints of a Lover, a solo show by London-based artist Hawazin Al-Otaibi, on view at Backhaus Projects, Berlin, from April 22nd to May 6th, 2022. This is the first time that Grove Collective has worked with Al-Otaibi, and marks the artist’s first exhibition in Berlin.
Al-Otaibi’s images have the luxury of communicating their mediation with ease. The artist’s canvases give a strong sense of the unreal as they bear heavily blurred images, often with pastel coloured backgrounds; the evidence of Al-Otaibi’s hand invites the viewer to thoughtfully consider her method. Yet, this invitation does not mitigate the vexing dualities which define the images: they appear at once clear and visually dense, legible and unintelligible.
However, broader duality takes shape in context: the image proves both a totem for, as well as a manifestation of, the very contradictions Al-Otaibi takes aim at in her work. Raised between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the artist uses images of Arab masculinity, often sourced through social media, and fuses them with traditional Arab symbols of femininity, such as flowers, in order to create a fraught tension within the image’s definitional signs; neither masculine nor feminine, the images remain in flux. Further, this breakdown of symbols is exacerbated by Al-Otaibi’s use of a desktop printer to print onto canvas – ink bleeds and the images lose shape.
In Fingerprints of a Lover, the artist takes this logic one step further by introducing Japanese anime characters palimpsestically into her works. Indeed, Al-Otaibi uses these animated characters to bring her logic full circle; their faces superimposed over traditionally feminine flowers, they recall both the fetishisation of women by men, as well as the online cultures these characters (and their related fetishes) spawn. In turn, the online nature of the images with which these characters are in dialogue highlights uncomfortable contradictions, calling attention to the internet as a site of both performed hyper-masculinity and endemic hypocrisy.
For Grove Collective, this further extends their work in Berlin with their partner organisation, Backhaus Projects. Having helped establish Backhaus Projects in late 2021, co-Directors Jacob Barnes and Morgane Wagner relish the opportunity to further expose young London-based artists to a European audience, bringing both exciting talent and engaging ideas to the art hub of Berlin. Thus, it is the gallery’s intention that Fingerprints of a Lover further cements their place within the city’s cultural landscape, creating a home in Neukölln and broader Berlin community for years to come.