Written by

Where's the frame

Jean Watt

May 24, 2023 1:49 PM


Alia Hamaoui’s solo exhibition 'Passing Para-daiza' marks the opening of Soup, Hector Campbell and Betty Guereta’s Walworth gallery. Hamaoui presents a new body of work for her debut gallery solo. 

South London-based Alia Hamaoui is a British-Lebanese artist. Her multidisciplinary practice moves between mediums to investigate cultural identity, memory and selfhood. In ‘Passing Para-daiza’ Hamaoui settles on two areas of focus from which the work expands: the Islamic paradise garden and the car voyage. As areas of physical and psychological journeying, both realms symbolise a longing for freedom and possibility. Providing momentum through a process of personal loss and grieving, the body of work acts as an unfolding of the self to consider and heal. 

Images courtesy of the artist and Soup.

Ride, the central sculptural piece at Soup, provides an entry point into Hamaoui’s consideration of the journey. A mosaic-tiled bench, adorned with two wooden beaded seat covers, air fresheners and blue leather upholstery elements, provides seating to view the moving image work Panoptic Gardens: as if looking out of the front window of a moving car. A digital three-dimensional Islamic paradise garden recalling early video-game design evolves on screen, blended with Hamaoui’s photography and elements of Islamic textile patterns. Through this subject matter, the work muses on the possibility of spiritual journeying hand in hand with the physical, encouraging introspection through a tight integration with sound artist Dorian Tran's meditative accompaniment.

Images courtesy of the artist and Soup.

Paradise Paraphernalia (Visor Tuck), a car sun visor decorated with sculptural elements, continues Hamaoui’s relationship with the journey. Introducing the strange vantage point which the rear-view gives to the passenger of a car ride, the mirror becomes a tool through which to view the whole body of work. Armed with this way of seeing which sits between intimacy and distance, the work can be read in relation to Hamaoui’s own identity—and expanded to encompass our experience of memory. 

Images courtesy of the artist and Soup.

A series of UV prints on dyed sand feature across both floors of the exhibition. At first hard to decipher, images slowly reveal themselves from the distorted merging of printed ink on coloured sand: car dashboards adorned with flowers and textiles in Weightless Containment (Dawn) and Weightless Containment (Dusk). Originally coming from key words fed into AI, Hamaoui digitally manipulates the imagery to match personal experience. Strange and dreamlike, they capture the indecipherable blurriness of a memory. Leaning in to the unexpected outcomes of the printing process Hamaoui accepts the possibility of chance to consider a merging of past, present and future. Memory interacts with process to offer a route to freedom. 

Hamaoui's body of work is sensitive and captivating, elevated by the generous space Campbell has given it. Emerging importantly from the duo's collaboration, with Hamaoui and Campbell both founding members of Deptford’s studio-gallery complex Collective Ending, the work and its display have been carefully considered. 'Passing Para-daiza' is a fertile new beginning for both artist and curator.

You can visit Alia Hamaoui’s 'Passing Para-daiza' at Soup until the 17th of JUNE. For more information, visit the gallery’s website

Suggested reading: