In Diwans of the Unknown (2021), Dana Awartani artist projects verses onto the surface of a large-scale accordion book made of intricately hand-embroidered silk textile panels. The words are drawn from overlooked and still limitedly documented poetry of female poets from across the Islamic world, including poems from the pre-Islamic to the twelfth century. “Diwan” in Islamic culture is a collection of poems by a single author that is frequently sung or set to music and intended to inspire. As they are rarely written by women, and therefore nearly erased from history, the artist brings attention to these lacunae through the intermittent projections on the textile. As the Diwans appear and disappear, they never leave a permanent mark. Awartani’s practice embraces methods of deconstruction, reinterpretation, and repetition of a sign system, revealing immutable patterns to demonstrate the structure of meaning. In this work, just as the beautiful embroidery reveals the codified geometrical sign systems on the textile, in the contemporary spirit of deconstruction and revelation, Awartani highlights and reveals the strength laying in the words of these powerful women of poetry.
Dana Awartani (b. 1987) is a Saudi artist whose work aspires to the contemporary revival of traditional geometry and historical modes of making through crafts and artisanal practices. It embraces a multitude of methods and mediums: performance, intricate manuscript illumination, parquetry, ceramics, embroidery, and pigment preparation. Her practice deconstructs, reinterprets, and repeats sign systems, revealing their immutable patterns and demonstrating the structure of their meaning.
Solo exhibitions include: The Silence Between Us, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah (2018); Detroit Affinities: Dana Awartani, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit (2017); and The Hidden Qualities of Quantities, Athr, Jeddah (2015). Awartani’s work is in the collections of the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi, the Greenbox Museum, Amsterdam; The British Museum, London; Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
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