Women bursting into spontaneous dance, grimaces wrought in lurid sequins and three kitschy doors leading nowhere - there's no doubt that Zoulikha Bouabdellah's latest solo show at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde fires off in myriad directions to make its point. Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, is Purely Coincidental is an exhibition that pushes the viewer to join the finely charged dots in each work.
Wheel of Fortune, for instance, is a series of masharabiya-style windows; gaze long enough and we can make out hundreds of female torsos and sultry smiles subtly obscured by the arabesque design of the frame. Similarly, The Scream is a huge, fragmented wall installation of 13 blood-red drippy paintings. From the despairing eyes and mouth disjointedly placed across the wall, we start to piece together a woman in the throes of a primal howl.
"The Scream is about how a precise facial expression can say so much about a situation," says Bouabdellah from Morocco, where she's been living since leaving France two years ago. "The work is partially a tribute to Edvard Munch's painting The Scream, which was a masterpiece because he was able to express so many concepts and his lack of confidence in where the world was going [before] the First World War in just one expression."
Portraits feature heavily in the show, including a collection of collages that depict the artist's face giving a wry grimace to the world. "The series is a response to what's going on in the Arab world now with regards to the rise of Islamism. I'm afraid of the situation that women will have to face," says the artist.
She notes that these grimaces express the bipolar response she had to the Arab Spring. "We had so much hope at the start of the Spring and are now facing another scenario."
• Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, until December 6.
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