Karen Dabrowska

Arab Weekly Article

Originally published: 15th May 2016

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The Eggsperiment: A simple painting with a powerful message for Syria

Created on cotton canvas, The Eggsperiment carries message of hope for war-battered Syrian people.

The Eggsperiment painting

The Eggsperiment painting that was auctioned to help Syrian refugees.

London - Creativity in the service of humanity is best expressed in the auction of The Eggsperiment, an acrylic painting that carries a message of hope for the war-battered Syrian people.

Created on cotton canvas, the painting is made of three colours – grey, yellow and brown – and four shapes – two circles, a square and a triangle – creating a modern, graphic image of a fertilised egg.

Next to the painting displayed in London’s P21 Gallery is a video showing an image of the painting and a short narrative introducing the work by Namibian artist Genevieve Detering.

“I am The Eggsperiment, a painting dedicated to the people of Syria,” the recording says. “I have no gender, no age, no race, and no religion. Like all of us I became a target at conception. Like many of you I had a fair shot at life. Others aren’t as lucky.”

The video moves to a powerful black-and-white image of a Syrian refugee, a pensive girl with a forlorn look in her eyes.

“Let us see how far I can travel and how much I can raise for change, love and hope,” The Eggsperiment urges the viewer. More refugee children appear on the screen but they are happy and smiling. The video ends with an image of the fertilised egg and the challenging words “I stand for life. What do you stand for?”

Detering is a film-maker who wanted to use her first painting to raise awareness of the crisis in Syria. The Eggsperiment painting was up for auction during the exhibition with the proceeds earmarked for a charity helping Syrian refugees and for the P21 Gallery.

The artist’s style, like her message, is simple and bold. Primary colours, geometric shapes and clean lines contrast with the unique oval shape of the canvas to create a graphic image of a fertilised egg.

“This style was chosen for the painting not that it might be researched and analysed in order to be understood, but rather executed clearly and simply so that its meaning could be understood by anyone. The painting communicates hope and a chance of life, but also the fragility of both when under threat,” exhibition curator Taylor Lockhart-Lang said.

Detering said she first envisioned the egg on a canvas in 2012.

“I brought it to life,” she said. “I wanted it to stand for something, something meaningful.”

With that thought in mind she searched beyond the canvas and took a closer look at her own life and the world around her. The crisis in Syria had weighed heavily on her and she was considering how she might use her creative works to raise awareness of the issue.

“Feelings of gratitude were what triggered an urge in me to give back through my creative works. The Eggsperiment not only marks the birth of this newfound venture, but also embodies these feelings of change, hope, love, life and humanity. Regardless of who we are and where we come from, we can’t help everyone – but we can help as many as we can,” Detering emphasised.

On the wall next to The Eggsperiment is a plea: “See me not for who made me but rather for what I represent – a simple piece of contemporary art dedicated to a great cause. Dedicated to the people of Syria.”

Detering refers to herself as an “odd creative conglomerate” or a “life artist”. She was born and raised on a farm in Namibia. She decided to travel to gather new perspectives on other peoples and cultures, learn independence and become a citizen of the world.

Other than sketching cartoons from an early age she never really attempted painting but as a film-maker she had experimented with new ways of expressing herself and in 2016 undertook The Eggsperiment project.

In parallel to the auction, the plight of Syrian migrants was underlined by Edward Jonkler, a freelance photojournalist who recently made the “refugee boat” crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos and travelled from the Syrian border to Europe, disguised as a refugee.

“The journey to Lesbos was in a small, light, grey rubber dinghy. Screaming and shouting breaks out as people pile on top of each other in the boat. There is no space to do anything else. People writhe around, gasping for air, hands and heads sticking out of a tangled web of bodies,” Jonkler wrote in an article for the World Weekly.

The smugglers slapped and kicked refugees to make them move down in the boat. “One punches a man in the back of the head and he slumps forward into the boat. A child is thrown into the boat and lands on top of everyone with a nauseating thud. I listen and, when he cries, I feel relieved that he is conscious,” Jonkler wrote.