FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

Artist Aya Tarek‘s solo exhibition:

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

SHELTER Art Space
52 Fouad Street, Al Attarin, Alexandria
12 December 2020–30 January 2021

The Fear of Missing Out is artist Aya Tarek’s inaugural solo exhibition in her hometown of Alexandria. SHELTER Art Space proudly presents a series of paintings and interventions that form a pivotal moment in the artist’s extensive oeuvre. Conceived during a global pandemic that continues to cloak every aspect of life as we know it in unpredictability, this exhibition also embraces a more sly sense of disorientation, one that indulges the tinge of doubt that seeps through when choices made also highlight the paths not taken. This collection of new artworks is an unflinching reflection on the things that are valued in the present, and the things that are charged with meaning in hindsight.

The fear of missing out as a phrase predates this exhibition by more than two decades. It’s an umbrella term for an anxiety that pushes through the cracks of the subconscious. It starts off as a tinge of doubt that has you soon believe that people, probably your own friends and especially your enemies, are out there somewhere living a better life, making better choices, looking better, and probably having more success and more fun than you. Social media shortened the expression to FOMO and turned this fear into a race against everyone, including one’s self.

For this solo exhibition, SHELTER Art Space’s sprawling interior is lit by spotlights and the walls are saturated in royal blue to emanate an air of exclusivity, opulence, and a tinge of unfamiliarity. The fifteen new paintings by Aya share a color palette but differ in style. Swaths of bright primary colors and occasional earth tones on dark backgrounds evoke in some of the works an early-1980s aesthetic reminiscent of illustrations by Patrick Nagel who forged a visual identity for the New Wave music genre by combining elements of Art Deco, Pop Art, and punk, or the photography of Jean-Paul Goude who worked closely with model, singer, and actor Grace Jones to craft a bold and androgynous look that helped define the era in pop culture and fashion.

Other works nod to the vibrant shapes of Matisse or the exploratory nature of abstraction. The subjects range from a tightly framed portrait to a car being hurled backwards into the air, a movie star, and a figure in a power suit. The most uneasy stillness in the show is an indoor setting with large houseplants punctuated by a seat in the center, and a window behind it that feels as though something severe has happened in the frame just moments ago. The private moments are jumbled with the trivial moments, which unsettles the curated nature of life encouraged by social media.

The lines blur even further as the presence of a virtual reality installation beckons you to take a selfie. And use the hashtag. The certificates of authenticity for each of the fifteen paintings, normally an administrative formality that happens behind the scenes, are given special attention as exhibits in the space and are prominently displayed as a memento to the now-or-never nature of acquiring an artwork. The poster design by Engy Aly leans into the frantic and jagged tapestry of emotions that is occasionally intercepted by clarity and nuance.

The Fear of Missing Out at SHELTER Art Space is artist Aya Tarek’s bold move forward on her own terms and ownership over the complicated and conflicting feelings that accompany true growth and change. On the heels of her 30th birthday, she can already look back on a successful and vibrant career centered on working as a muralist and street artist. Whether in Geneva, São Paulo, South Florida, or Cairo, her lines and colors are as crisp and expressive outdoors on a 20-meter high wall as they are in digital paintings commissioned by Google. She thoroughly mastered the techniques and forged a signature style, two hallmarks of a professional who could continue on this career path in perpetual motion. Instead, and with this exhibition in her hometown and at SHELTER Art Space, Aya chose to take stock, scale back, and focus on the fundamentals. If there ever was a time to fully embrace the fear of having missed out on something or anticipate the consequences of choices that lie ahead, this is it. Remarkable is all the more that she is letting us in on the process.

About the artist:

Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1989, Aya Tarek is a painter, street artist and illustrator with an exciting portfolio of diverse art projects, feature films and art collaborations that draws international acclaim in major cities, from Sao Paolo to Frankfurt. Experimentation is at the forefront of Tarek’s current artistic endeavors. Through the use of innovative mediums such as virtual reality and the discovery of fresh forms of studio painting, Tarek seeks to use her experience as an artist to revisit her roots in classical training and push herself in new, unexplored directions. Tarek’s work explores the different interchanges within modes of urban communication and the dynamics of a public space. Using a vibrant, comic-derived aesthetic, and often working through site-specific murals, Tarek aims to trigger a humorous sense of controversy while investigating different ideas pertaining to different public contexts.

Aya has showcased her artwork in various exhibitions and events around the world, including Omar A Sharif Mural, Antigel Festival, Geneva (2018); Sprezzatura, SOMA Art, Cairo (2018); Aya in America, Portland (2017); Paper Trail, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo (2017); Objects in the Mirror Are Closer than They Appear, SOMA Art, Cairo (2017); the showing of Cairo Man, photogravure print, made in collaboration with Master Printer Tim Baker at the University of South Florida’s Graphic Studio (2016); Afreaka Festival, Sao Paulo (2016); World Premiere of a New Mural by Aya Tarek, USF Contemporary Art Museum, Florida (2015); Urban Art Biennale, Weltkulturerbe Völklinger Hütte, Völklingen (2015); Djerbahood, Itinerrance Gallery, Djerba (2014); Vagabonds Congress, Theatre RMPH, Stuttgart (2014); Cityleaks, Cologne (2013); White Walls, Beirut Art Centre, Beirut (2012); Arabic Graffiti & Egyptian Street Art in Frankfurt, Frankfurt (2012); Ankh Project, ITP Berlin (2011); Graffiti: Style / History / Experience, Goethe-Institut, Alexandria (2011); Bytes and Pieces, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (2011); Shopping Malls, Alexandria Contemporary Art Forum, Alexandria (2010); The PICK 4, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo (2009). Aya is also the recipient of several residencies, including the Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris in France, and the Artist in Resident Show at the Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation in Italy.

About the graphic designer:

Engy Aly is a graphic designer with an MFA from the Basel School of Design (HGK FHNW/UIC). Aly mainly focuses on cultural commissions including posters, catalogues and artist monographs. She is also the initiator and organizer of several workshops, exhibitions and events revolving around design and visual culture in Cairo and elsewhere.

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