'Everybody in our streets shout for their opinions, fight for their visions. I see the problems and through my art, I aim to shed light on the current issues with a subtle approach. It is not my role to suggest solutions; I leave this to the politicians and revolutionary people. My revolution is with my art'.
(The artist quoted, 2013).
The first from an ongoing project entitled Ice Cream Map - aimed to be completed by 2018 by the Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr - the present work is a judicious assemblage of industrially painted puzzle pieces, that become visual metaphors for the social and geographical divisions in contemporary societies. Within the global context of the Middle East, Nasr choses a poetic approach to reveal how borders are being redrawn, regardless of the ethnical and cultural ties that may unite populations; and states, like puzzle pieces, can be randomly displaced and their borders reassessed.
By choosing subtle pastel hues, Nasr refers to the sweetness and creaminess of the ice cream, while allegorically suggesting its ease to melt and the ice cream - or in the case of some of his other series the matchstick - hence epitomises the vulnerability of the subject. Although the engaged artist hints at the relentless conflicts that have occurred in the region for decades and voices out the opinion that the population and masses are being controlled by the upper powers like puzzles, his intention is not to inflict his own social and political understanding of the world, but rather to encourage individual interpretations.
Whereas the first series from his ongoing project were filled with playful references and made with joyful colours, the artist continues to create the ever-changing maps. He fears however that the next five maps will take a strident shift as his prophecy is taking shape on the ground, but sadly not in the innocent and delightful colours that can be found in a bowl of ice cream, but rather as an amalgamation of sweat from the armies that are fighting and the blood of the unsuspecting martyrs.
Ironically or rather optimistically, Moataz Nasr has kept the missing puzzle pieces from each of his six progressive Maps created since 2008, with the hope that positive changes will occur, allowing him at last to complete his puzzles. Amidst the social and political unrest that has recently occurred in the region, the Ice Cream Map hence stands as a lyrical and symbolic expression of contemporary history and suggests a promising destiny.
The current work was first exhibited in a solo show in Italy at the Galleria Continua in San Gimignano in 2008, consequently the artist's other maps have shown in Dubai, Beijing and France. In its unsuspecting profoundness, there is an overwhelming transformative nature in Nasr's work that expresses a key message about humanity and the human condition.