Do Ut Des (Give to receive) is the first major solo exhibition of young Italian-Egyptian artist Omar Hassan in Venice, organized by the Alberto Peruzzo Foundation in collaboration with ContiniArtUK. Located in the 10th century Chiesetta della Misericordia this highly anticipated exhibition will run during the 57th Venice Biennale. “Do Ut Des” investigates the relationship between sculpture and painting, and between classical and contemporary art. Taking full advantage of the grand setting of a medieval Venetian Church, it embarks the viewer on a unique voyage. Showcasing a series of large scale works that shift effortlessly between painting and sculpture, often combining the two together.
A clear appreciation for the distinctive worlds of Classicism and Contemporary Art is visible, as ancient Greek statues have been painted with brightly coloured spray paint, one of the artist’s long-standing mediums of choice. Classical sculptures such as two iconic full figure Venus de Milo figurines reside either side of the Altar. Both have been identically painted at a singular point on their foreheads and the resulting spray paint has been allowed to run down the body of the Venus. In this diptych Hassan has sought to investigate the idea of the imperfect repetition, through the application of paint to the statue.
Another work sees Venere di Cirene and Venere di Siracusa gazing at one another across the church, mimicking the way the original statues look at each other across the Mediterranean, from Siracusa to Tripoli. These sculptures are again found at the interplay of painting and sculpture as they are both positioned within traditional, yet empty frames.
Staying true to his roots in painting Hassan will also be presenting artworks of the series that made him famous such as “Injections” and “Breaking Through”. Two large-scale Injection paintings, one black the other white, which are at once minimal yet powerful in their execution. It is the strength in their pictorial gesture that give them such authority; a simplicity that resonates within its setting, evocative of the most powerful symbol in Christianity, the Cross. Two further paintings from the Breaking Through series can be found either side of the entrance, for these the painting experience is much more physical. As Hassan boxes with the canvas itself until the resulting work is realized, an energetic field of explosive colour.
Here, again, the physical world collides with the two-dimensional world of painting with great force.
In a final installation, perhaps most subtle yet beautiful of all, Hassan has created a stained glass façade for the rose window on the face of the Church. Created in Hassan’s signature spray painted ‘dot’ style, the stained glass will allow a spectacular spectrum of colours through hitting a singular point within the church, moving slowly throughout the day with the movement of the sun. Most stunning of all is that for a fleeting moment each day this orb of multi-coloured light will pass over a sculpture of the Torso del Belvedere which Hassan has painted white on white, bringing it to life with colour. Founded as a place of worship, the church thus becomes during the exhibition a temple for art, classical and contemporary.
We understand that Hassan’s approach to art making verges on devotion, for the artist his practice is his religion. What he puts into his work, he wants others to take away with them in the viewing experience. The title “Do Ut Des” can be fully understood in one final act of the artist, the baptismal font near the Church’s entrance is no longer filled with Holy Water, but now contains hundreds of used spray paint caps. The very tool with which the artist works now becomes a work in itself. The viewer is invited to take one away with them, a small piece of the exhibition that they can keep for their own, the idea of giving and receiving is complete, and the exhibition fragmented and immortalised. As part of the exhibition renowned curators and art critics will contribute to the publication of a book.