21 June - 12 July 2022
  • Taymour Grahne Projects is pleased to present Figure of Speech, an online show by London-based artist Nada Elkalaawy opening on June 21, 2022.

  • Elkalaawy’s innovative approach to painting focuses on its ability to communicate and at the same time withhold information – a fact that renders the image highly objective as it defies straightforward interpretation. This body of work explores the possibilities of representation and how human perception distinguishes reality from apparition and all the uncanny stages in-between. The language of oil painting is used to blur the line between reality and fiction and therefore the images are not solvable, leading a life of their own.


    As if drawn from a dream, the protagonists of Elkalaawy’s shadow-cloaked scenes give away little information about their identity, drawing the viewer into an ambiguous world. Painted with quiet stillness and non-descriptive backgrounds, the images are set in a frame of timelessness and could exist at any point of the present or past. The iconography is inspired by porcelain figurines the artist first encountered during a visit to a puppet shop in Switzerland. Some of the paintings feature putti, infants frequently depicted in historical paintings which were believed to influence human lives. Most renaissance putti are essentially decorative and populate both secular and religious artworks without taking part in the events depicted in narrative compositions. Here, putti are idolised as they’re seen in an almost life size scale and at the centre of the composition.


    The work explores the uncanny presence and materiality of Meissen figurines, focusing on the contrast between the solidity of the medium and its fluid look. Aiming to perfectly emulate a human figure, the figurines still lack emotion and are hollow inside, providing a space to be filled. This eerie contrast makes one wonder what happens when a tiny empty vessel is given solid reality. Does it remain a lifeless double of a real object, or does it take on other qualities? Complexity, mystery, and humour can be found in these images as it is not certain whether the paintings describe the original decorative collectibles, a filtered reality, or maybe real persons. The series is also connected to other themes like classical mythology, clones, kitsch aesthetics, rococo, and life and death, with references ranging from art history to films like Annabelle (2014) and the Jaquet-Droz automata dolls. 


    The paintings develop a visual language of doubling and mirroring, shaped by a compelling but unsettling interplay between foreground and background, animation, and rigidity, past and present, reality and fiction. Illusion is achieved not only through painting techniques, but also by the repetition of the same subject matter and its placement in different contexts and conditions, offering new perspectives. Elkalaawy invites the viewer to engage in meaning making, as no certain answer is given. The objects are often transfigured from their original contexts, where new details, narratives, and meanings are added. Ambiguity is used as a tool for  building narrative and nudging the viewer to challenge their reading of it. As always, the language of painting is offering limitless possibilities of interpretation thus defying any definitive reading.

  • Nada Elkalaawy was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1995 and currently lives and works in London. She is predominantly a...

    Nada Elkalaawy was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1995 and currently lives and works in London. She is predominantly a painter, however she often incorporates drawing, animation and tapestry in conversation with the painterly medium. Elkalaawy holds an MFA in Fine Art Painting from the Slade School of Fine Art. She recently had solo shows at Galerie DuflonRacz (Bern) and Gypsum Gallery (Cairo) and has participated in group shows in numerous venues including: Kunstraum Dreiviertel (Bern); KINO DER KUNST (Munich); Sharjah Art Gallery (Cairo); MASS Alexandria (Alexandria); Shubbak Festival (London); Southwark Park Galleries (London); Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz (Berlin); Nahim Isaias Museum (Guayaquil) and Slade school of Fine Art (London) among others. Her work has been shortlisted for the Waverton Art Prize, the Dentons Art Prize, and the Sarabande Emerging Art fund. It has also been published in Vogue Arabia, the Evening Standard, Sky News Arabia and Jdeed magazine. Last year, Elkalaawy completed the Pro Helvetia Studio Residency, PROGR (Bern). Her work is included in the X Museum collection, Soho House collection and private collections worldwide.