“But all the foregoing (besides sharing the defect of not existing) are mere optical instruments. The faithful who come to the Amr mosque in Cairo, know very well that the universe lies inside one of the stone columns that surround the central courtyard. …No one, of course, can see it, but those who put their ear to the surface claim to hear, within a short time, the bustling rumor of it. …The mosque dates to the seventh century; the columns were taken from other, pre-Islamic, temples, for as ibn-Khaldun has written: in the republics founded by nomads, the attendance of foreigners is essential for all those things that bear upon masonry.”
Jorge Luis Broges, The Aleph and Other Stories
If, by persistently looking in one direction, you can see, hanging near a goddess or a nymph, a mediaeval map drawn by twelfth century geographer Mohammad al-Idrisi; if this goddess or this nymph is Circe, daughter of Helios, god of the sun, and Perse, the Oceanid; if she is represented as she was during the century of the romantics, in the Pre-Raphaelite style, holding a cup full of a magic potion intended for Odysseus; if she is assisted by an attractive yet peculiar contemporary woman; if you realize that Odysseus himself is not Odysseus anymore but the member of one of the fundamentalist groups of our troubled times, roaming the regions outlined in al-Idrisi’s map, where south is up; if you can discern a slender woman, with long purple hair that cascades to her feet; if this sexy martial art fighter, this Japanese Manga hero is Uncho Kanu, and if she pretends to be – or perhaps actually is – Circe the Greek; if all these objects, people and symbols belong to different stories; if they simultaneously belong to the past, the present and even the future; if they appear to you slightly altered and tell stories they never told before; if you can see all of these objects, symbols and people, and maybe a few others, in just one glimpse, then, there is no doubt, you are in a narrative derived from the imagination of Mohammad El Rawas, the raconteur, the Maker of Realities.
Magical Realism is what best describes El Rawas’ complex constructions – or should we say ‘deconstructions’. Each one of his compositions is a layered assemblage of objects and techniques, ideas and references. He borrows, modifies, alters, copies, pastes, reinterprets and decontextualizes objects and concepts he finds in the history of art from Italian renaissance to contemporary art, through haute couture and fashion, comics, architecture and photography. El Rawas' juxtaposition of styles, genres and techniques, at times brutal and uncomfortable, always surprising, mirrors the intertextuality and absurdity of our contemporary life. He even orders online the sexy figurines of manga characters that populate his works, turning the act of art creation itself into the most postmodern of our everyday life activities: Internet shopping.
|Joseph Cornell, Medici Boy,|
Remarkably, by looking at the art of Mohammad El Rawas through the lenses of literature, one can further apprehend his talent as a raconteur. Indeed, El Rawas’ audacious amalgams and borrowings resemble French writer Michel Houellebecq's use of intertextuality and pastiche, while the peculiar atmospheres of the imaginary worlds generated by these very amalgams evoke yet another writer, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Like these two authors, El Rawas epitomizes Postmodernism in its most accessible and understandable dimensions. All three contemporary artists excel at the art of deconstruction.
|The Saga of a Reclining Model, Oil, Acrylic, |
Mixed media and Assemblage on Plywood panel, 90/89/3cm, 2009
Michel Houellebecq masters the subtle art of borrowing and decontextualizing the styles of authors that predated him. The reader can find in his texts accents suggesting Balzac in a sentence like “Et si le voyageur éphémère veut bien rappeler à sa mémoire...”, Camus in the beginning of the sentence “Assisté à la mort d’un type, aujourd’hui...”, Lautréamont in some of his poetic descriptions of rural France, etc. Houellebecq also makes use of texts he finds outside literature per se. He borrows from sources as diverse as advertising, recipes, math problems or the user’s manuals of electronic devices. He advocates the use of all sorts of ‘raw materials’ in literature. In “The Map and the Territory”, he copied from Wikipedia a description of how flies have sex. He argues that taking passages word for word is not stealing as long as the motives are to recycle them for artistic purposes. His whole style is based on borrowing banal and technical descriptions from everyday life and weaving them into something artistic.
|Inclinations, Oil, Acrylic, Mixed media and Assemblage |
on Plywood panel, 109/99/6.50cm, 2010
The concomitant use by El Rawas of techniques as opposed as photorealism and surrealism, resonates with the world of Magical Realism, of which some characteristic features are the mingling and juxtaposition of the realistic and the fantastic or bizarre, skillful time shifts, convoluted and even labyrinthine narratives and plots, miscellaneous use of dreams, myths and fairy stories, expressionistic and even surrealistic descriptions, arcane erudition, the element of surprise or abrupt shock, the horrific and the inexplicable. The use of different materials found in places that do not naturally belong together, the mysteries left unresolved, the hentai-like sexual tensions, the altered, foreign yet familiar atmospheres, immerse the Rawas reader in a throbbing comfortable discomfort.