Fantasy, femininity, fairytales: Nevine Mahmoud’s alluring sculptures at Comfortable Opening
Opening alongside Frieze Week 2022, Nevine Mahmoud’s new present at Comfortable Opening, London, is a nuanced exploration of eroticism, mythology and cultural assumptions of femininity
Nevine Mahmoud’s alluring sculptures are a play of opposites. The graceful surfaces of big peaches, lips and, most not too long ago, deer invite contact. On the similar time, they’re laborious, crafted in supplies equivalent to marble and glass. They maintain the twin properties of coldness and heat; fragility and sturdiness; eroticism and innocence.
These conflicts converse to what it feels wish to reside inside a sexualised physique. There are normally unmissable nods to the feminine kind within the British artist’s sculptures, however for her new exhibition ‘In Mass and Feeling’ at Comfortable Opening in east London – opening alongside Frieze Week 2022 – she takes a step away from such direct references to the physique.
Instead of dripping moist fruits and suggestive doughnuts, she has forged Little Tykes plastic toy cottages, a tricycle, and a deer in marble. The sunshine blue and pink cottage doorways riff on her earlier present, ‘Foreplay II’ at M+B Doheny in Los Angeles, the place life-sized playground constructions have been mixed with enormous tongue slides and swinging breasts.
Nevine Mahmoud, Tricycle (bone), 2022. Epoxy resin, fibreglass, pigment. Courtesy the artist and Comfortable Opening, London
‘The playground sculpture may very well be seen as a portal or entryway, which I’ve thought of earlier than with the physique by way of orifices, lips and mouths; holes and cleavages,’ she tells me. ‘It felt like one other formal mind-set about that concept.’
There’s something discomforting concerning the cottage doorways standing alone, main nowhere, casts of plastic types that mimic one thing else. They recall to mind the stone homes of witches and gnomes in fairytales. The viewer’s creativeness is allowed to fill within the blanks. ‘The within is carved like padding,’ Mahmoud tells me. ‘The shutters have a crisscross impact like a romantic barn. This stuff are signifiers of fantasy. They’re home, mythological; they trace at man and nature. However they’re so decreased.’
The deer seems to reside in the identical mythological universe, with a white Turkish Sivec marble physique and hand-carved ears which might be eerily lifelike, rendered in Portuguese pink marble with delicate vein markings. ‘It conflates the delicate, female, child-like and erotic,’ she explains. ‘The ears connote one thing extra lifelike and alive, whereas the paler, drained of color elements of the physique are like a passive formalism.’
Nevine Mahmoud, Cottage door, 2022. Salvaged marble, aluminum rod. Courtesy the artist and Comfortable Opening, London
That is the primary physique of labor for which Mahmoud has used a mixture of hand and robotic carving. For instance, the deer combines a robotically carved physique with hand-carved ears. The artist normally tries to create as a lot as attainable by hand however is happy with this hybrid method of working.
The eroticism of ‘In Mass and Feeling’ is delicate. In transferring away from the extra instantly sexualised symbols of fruit and erogenous physique elements, Mahmoud hints at an uncomfortable eroticism connected to childhood and purity. ‘I really feel like what was motivating me was innocence,’ she explains. ‘Modesty, purity… these phrases have been arising. If the erotic is right here, it is extremely forbidden. With the fruit, there may be a suitable, comfy reference to eroticism. That is stranger.’
The deer additionally speaks to cultural assumptions of femininity. Its inclusion throughout the present explores the complete complexity of this trope. ‘It’s a really tangible archetype, this frail little deer. I’m confused about the place ladies stand with that. Are we meant to negate that or really feel that method?’ Mahmoud considers. ‘There’s a magnificence and class, but it surely’s very passive.’ §
Nevine Mahmoud, Romantic shutters, 2022 Portuguese pink marble, Carrara white marble. Courtesy the artist and Comfortable Opening, London
Nevine Mahmoud, M (one supple breast), 2022. Courtesy the artist and Comfortable Opening, London. Images Paul Salveson
Nevine Mahmoud, Your Presence is Inspired, Los Angeles, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Comfortable Opening, London