By Fanny Ohier
Tonight marks the opening night of the “Dikotomous” exhibition at the Al Kahila Art Gallery in Mohandessin, set to last until Monday 10 June.
Dominique Mahoney and Kenzie Kingman, the artists featured in the exhibition, have known each other since childhood, and “have always been interested in the arts”, Mahoney said. So after graduating from their respective universities, the two girls decided to dedicate a month of their spare time to art.
This is how “XX Project” started.
Smiling, Kenzie explains, “It was kind of a mission, a goal to complete 25 canvases in 30 days.” They had begun to paint together, but on separate canvases; yet this soon changed as they started to help each other, each adding her touch to the other’s paintings. Kenzie explained: “[Dominique] has a crazy imagination; she is very good at shading and bringing things to life. As for myself, I like flat things; when it’s only black… she comes with some white and makes it look like the painting is in 3D.”
These complementary styles prompted the pair to start painting collaboratively. “We were splitting the canvases,” Dominique explained. Setting up their art studio wherever they could, they continued their “XX Project”, encouraging each other to keep the paint flowing. “Nobody took the project seriously,” Kenzie said, laughing.
While painting, the two girls kept updating a blog to show people their working process. “It kept us motivated,” Dominique said. Indeed, they were right in persevering, as shortly afterwards an important Egyptian gallery contacted them. The “XX Project” was a rough draft what would later become Dikotomous, which came about after one of the galleries they met with advised them to “develop [their] styles”.
The exhibition showcases the harmony of two young women from two mixed nationalities, two different worlds, two personalities and of course, two styles; Kenzie’s style has a surrealist tone, while Dominique’s resembles minimalistic pop art.
The name of this new project comes from the word “dichotomy”, which Dominique explains as “the splitting of a whole into two non overlapping parts. So each of our styles doesn’t dominate the other, but they complement each other. It’s about how we can make these two poles… these opposite sides coexist on the same canvases.” For that purpose, they created what they call “the middle point” at which they stop working and let the other complete the work. “We both like the style Natura Morta [still life],” Dominique pointed out. They followed the same process they used for their first project, but deepened it; the scenes they depict came from their imagination, and were then painted in acrylic, making for a body of work that combines realism with fantasy.
Behind each piece of work, they built a story. “Tatoo girl” for example, Kenzie’s favourite painting and the pair’s very first collaborative piece, depicts a girl waking up in bed. She is both tattooed on her back and by the way people label her. However, Kenzie explained: “at the same time, this girl is making an impact on the people who are talking about her.” It’s a mise-en-abyme [placed into abyss]: a tattooed girl who tattoos herself onto people’s minds.
The pair were also attracted to the use of certain colours. All their paintings are in red, white, black and gold; the colour combination is a way of expressing their ties to their adopted country. “It’s because of the Egyptian flag,” Kenzie said, “It’s our home.” Dominique’s mother is Armenian-Lebanese, Kenzie’s mother is Egyptian-Italian, and both their fathers are American, but they both grew up in Egypt.
Dikotomous puts this identity split on display. “It’s mainly about how two worlds [merge to] create a whole and how they can coexist in harmony,” Dominique said. “Then in every canvas we did, there are two sides. We want to show that two opposite poles can have…” Kenzie interjects, “…a neutral point.”
Dikotomous is also the name of the website they launched, and the last piece of the exhibition.
This one is Dominique’s favourite piece, the last painting and the pièce de la résistance. “It represents everything that the exhibition is about: old times versus modern days, East meets West,” she emphasises. “It’s not a political piece. It’s about a feeling we share… how we feel about Egypt.”
The exhibition opens tonight at 7pm at Al Kahila Art Gallery in Mohandessin.