The photograph titled Anubis and the Temple portrays a statue of Anubis, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. Behind his imposing silhouette is the Temple. He is, after all, protector of the dead. Speaking of dead, for thousands of years the monument has baked under the burning desert sun, and yet as one looks upon the photograph, one can feel that there is something still very much alive stirring beneath it’s eroded surface, damaged by harsh winds and sand dunes. Mysterious echoes of by-gone times continue to reach us from the ghostly layers and sandy hues of this photograph, creating a channel from an ancient civilization to the modern world.
It’s this transcendent, undying spirit from ancient times that artist and fine-art photographer, Marlene Luce Tremblay, aims to reveal through her photographic series titled Iconic Egypt & Beyond. Anubis and the Temple, Ramses II and the Temple of Amun, and The Mysterious Sphynx are the titles of the three gelatin silver prints from the series that will be showcased at the 2017 Florence Biennale from October 6th – 15th, 2017 in the Fortezza da Basso. East meets West as images from one of the most ancient, mystical civilizations, come to the cobble-stoned streets of the Medieval city of Florence, the city of Dante and Boccaccio, of Brunelleschi and Da Vinci.
“The reason I chose to showcase the [images from this] series is to highlight the multi-layered history and culture of a great civilization that seems to be almost completely overlooked in the current political turmoil,” she said.Through her travels, the subjects she chooses to photograph, and the countries she exhibits her work in (she just completed an exhibition at the Galerie Saladin in Sidi Bou
Said, Tunisia), Ms. Tremblay’s artwork continually centers around the theme of multiculturalism and the desire to bridge the perpetually wide gap between the Western and Eastern worlds.
This desire to cultivate a cross-cultural dialogue is the driving force behind her participation in the XI Florence Biennale, the theme of which is EARTH. From Uruguay and Chile, to Syria, South Africa, and the Philippines, the Biennale features the work of artists from all over the world, whose artistic creations foster an intercultural dialogue and endeavor to not only preserve, but revive the rich cultural history of the world.
“The Florence Biennale is very meaningful to me for I believe that art can contribute to a cultural rapprochement and can carry messages that are far beyond the political narrative. Its mission
statement resonates with my artistic initiatives which have been about multiculturalism and cross-cultural dialogue from Canada to Egypt, to Algeria and Tunisia, as well as Europe,” she said. Consisting of more than 25 originals that cannot be reproduced, the series of images was photographed in 2004 when the Canadian artist was invited to Egypt by the government to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Canada and Egypt. “The series was created as a result of a cultural exchange initiative which brought me to Egypt where I discovered a whole new world, rich with history far beyond what we have in the Western world,” she said.
In this earlier phase of her artistic career, the artist only shot in film photography. Prior to 2004, she created her work only in black and white, but as often happens when one travels to new places and immerses oneself in foreign cultures, something within her creative soul was awakened, as if she was guided by the whispers of those mystical spirits hidden within the tombs of the temples. After experiencing the grandeur and majesty of the Ancient Egyptian ruins, she began to visualize her photographs in color, and they started to take on the golden and sandy hues of the desert. As is characteristic of her artwork, the photographs are otherworldly, pulling the viewer into a transcendent reality that is different from his or her own.
For the Ancient Egyptians, a civilization that represented the pinnacle of spiritual sciences, art served a practical purpose. A statue was believed to hold the spirit of a god or the deceased, charms and amulets shielded the wearer from malevolent forces. Today, the dusty surfaces of these monuments and artifacts, battered by natural forces, war and human hands, look like empty shells encompassing the lifeless remnants of a civilization that is long gone. Yet thousands of years later, that mysterious spirit encased within continues to stir. If you take a moment to look beyond the political turmoil afflicting the country, you can still feel it in the modern city streets of Cairo and Alexandria today.