With the delicate and elegant silhouettes of these bodies, fluctuating as ghosts in cages of wire mesh, the expectations that are constantly put on women’s bodies are challenged in a radical yet subtle manner. Hanan Roz, the Lebanese artist and creator of this collection of sculptures, here explores the hidden dichotomies of toughness and fragility, beauty and pain, expectations and reality, both in their material and symbolic forms.
By incorporating her personal experience as a woman into the process of creating these delicate yet arduous bodies, she explores the meaning of femininity and beauty, thus offering the viewer a sense of this journey. Hands are reaching out from skins made of wire, whilst headless and limbless bodies sensually dance within their invisible nets. Each sculpture incarnates a diverse expression of the feminine body, shedding light on its metaphysical structures, its innate diversity, its beautiful strength.
Hanan, thank you for sharing your thoughts and talking to Shot Magazine about your Sense sculptures. What inspired you to start this series?
When I began this series, I was going through a difficult period in my life. I was overtaken by a feeling of being caged and stripped of myself and my personality. I felt like I had no head or limbs to act or think straight. You can see that in my sculptures through the absence of the head, limbs, and extremities. I was also looking for security and so I was looking for a material to work with that could act as a shield, which ended up being metal wire mesh.
How has your personal background informed this series of sculptures?
I grew up in a country where destruction and distraction simultaneously have become part of our daily survival. And, more importantly, where loss has become a normal part of our daily lives. Both the personal and the social context I grew up in had a huge impact not only on how lightly I define security and protection, but also on how little of these I can find. This constant uncertainty made me at first choose wire mesh and metal as a medium that for me symbolizes safety and dependability.
Could you tell us more about your creative process?
Primarily, I search for a material that serves best the theme that I am addressing. For instance, in the case of my latest female nudes sculptures, which investigate notions of fragility, attachment and detachment, I realized that working with wire mesh perfectly translates my message. Then I familiarize myself with the material in terms of structure and process of sculpting. As I am sculpting the metallic wire mesh, which is malleable and rough at the same time, I let myself go and translate my inner emotions through the shapes I create with my bare hands. Then, the process becomes more technical and I make sure to achieve a high quality of execution, including welding, painting and top coat treatment to preserve the metal.
What made you choose wire mesh as a material?
As I mentioned, it’s both hard and malleable, which best serves my current artistic theme. But also, through my creative and implementation process, I feel safe with it. This material scratches and bruises and I once tried to use gloves, but it did not satisfy my purpose. Wire mesh requires bareness, strength and tolerance to pain, and in return it has its own flexibility. Being able to bend and shape that which is tough is essential to my process.
In some of these sculptures, hands are seen touching, disturbing, caressing these mesh bodies. What is the significance of these external, solid hands?
Wire mesh is especially key to my work because it can be seen as a shield that can bend to create ideal forms, but it can also depict the idea of being bareboned or stripped to the bone, as though with no skin. Dealing with a rigid material and using it to create the most delicate parts of a woman’s body and her pain gave me a sense of control and helped me deal with loss. One might claim that the female form that I depict here in my work is an attempt to sculpt an ideal female nude form. But this is far from it. Each sculpture has its own particularity. And the challenge here is to see the particular in that which might seem ideal to many. As for the solid resin hands, they reveal the unquenchable thirst for care, affection, and support; simply someone to ‘hold your hand’, as the expression goes. It could also insinuate a hand reaching out.
Beauty is pain, they say. In your artistic experience, how do these notions of beauty, pain, art interconnect with each other? How does this relate to being vulnerable?
Achieving certain standards of beauty often requires effort and sacrifice. It can be a form of artistic expression that challenges societal norms and the human body in unconditional ways. Those sculptures may push boundaries, highlight the beauty that exists beyond conventional standards. They create a space where they explore vulnerability by expectations, by embracing vulnerability. Also, they communicate messages about identity, self-acceptance and empowerment. Those metal sculptures challenge the objectification of women’s bodies, emphasizing their agency and autonomy.
These sculptures, as the ethereal, translucent skins of female bodies, seem to break down traditional narratives of beauty and femininity with their delicate transparency. Would you say this is true?
Yes, the delicate transparency of these sculptures symbolizes the breaking down of societal expectation, allowing for more nuanced understandings of beauty and femininity. Additionally, it can serve as a reminder that true beauty lies not just in physical attributes but also in the depth and complexity of individuals.
What is womanhood, to you?
Womanhood encompasses a range of identities, experiences and expressions which could be influenced by cultural, societal, and personal factors. It involves multiple roles and challenging expectations, while also embracing individuality and self-determination.
All images courtesy of the artist adn Firetti Contemporary - Photographer: Rayan Chehab