A work of art can reach out and touch people visiting an exhibition in very different ways: Mai Tabakian's works usually provoke a deep and intense visual and tactile pleasure, accompanied by a sense of attraction and repulsion at the same time.
A recently opened exhibition at the Mathilde Hatzenberger Gallery in Brussels invite people to step into Tabakian's world and confront her new artworks. "Singularité" features visually powerful sculptures by Tabakian covered in vibrantly coloured vinyl fabrics.
At times the works assume indeed the shapes and silhouettes of monstrous formations and configurations, attracting and luring visitors with the sensual yet deadly power of a carnivorous plant.
This particular exhibition is suspended between several different dichotomies: Tabakian interprets singularity as a juxtaposition between the single and the universal, originality and boring conformity, unconventionality and uniformity.
The artist is interested in how singularity develops and incarnates in each and every human being, but she is also intrigued by the various interpretations of the concept of originality.
In works such as "Flying Targets" Tabakian moves from repetition, introducing in her installation a variable: the identical Op Art targets forming this installation are indeed reconfigured in a complex and symbolic aesthetic, arranged in a spiral that may be interpreted as a modern tower of Babel, hinting at Constructivism and at the traditional Vietnamese hats (and therefore at Tabakian's own origins), while addressing Hellenic concepts such as cyclical time, the cosmos and cosmogonies since the targets look as if they were being sucked by an invisible black hole.
Black also prevails in one central piece - "The Black Star" - a spiky configuration that protrudes from one wall dominating over Tabakian's "Nucleus" sculptures. These new series of works consists in wall pieces in a wide range of colours, at times surrounded by geometrically arranged threads.
Though Tabakian's connoisseurs may manage to identify in between their colours and patterns flowers, roses, circles and cycles, that is ubiquitous figures and symbols in her work, these nuclei could be interpreted as intricate viruses or complex embroideries in constant mutation, a reference to the artist's interest in art and science as well.
Irony and death are instead entwined in "Hannibal Killed Me" and "My Swan Song": the former looks like a beheaded figure with a surreally elongated neck, while the latter seems an abstract representation of a swan head with a ring buoy around its neck (imagine the spike and rings for a quoit-game and you get the idea).
"Singularity" therefore also plays with a reconciliation of opposites, a balance that is present both in Asian (yin and yang) and Western cultures (the "Dionysian" and "Apollonian").
Last but not least, the title of the exhibition may be a reference to the peculiar style of an artist: Tabakian, though, escapes any kind of pigeonholing definition (she's not a textile artist and she's not a sculptress or a painter, and yet she's all these things together), situating herself between Nikki de Saint Phalle's monumentally colourful sculptures and Louise Bourgeois' emotionally distressful obsessions.
Suspended between painting and architectural sculptures, Tabakian's embossed tapestries sutured on extruded polystyrene prompt the visitors to think.
Her Op Art targets and the colourful spirals of "Spectrum Invaders" suck visitors into a parallel dimension, turning into symbols of our collective confusion of ideas, ideals, languages and cultures, but they also represent through their harmonious combinations of colours a beautiful reaction to the dark brutality of the modern world.