Diana Al-Hadid (b.1981 Aleppo,Syria) references art from the past in her work, one such example being ‘The Allegory of Chastity’ by the Flemish Primitive, Hans Memling, which Al-Hadid used as a starting point for one of her recent installations. The painting depicts a woman piously standing in the centre of an imposing mountain. Al-Hadid used the image as the basis for one of the panels of her installation because she was so struck by how the woman appeared to be grafted onto the mountain.
Additionally in Al-Hadid’s practice, there is often the sense of history repeating itself - an effect that Al Hadid achieves at times by catapulting the viewer into the future and affording them a unique perspective of being able to not only look back on man’s collective troubled past, but on the crises and follies all too apparent in our own contemporary world. Al Hadid has also looked to literature to provoke her creativity. One recent example being the character of Gradiva (‘the woman who walks’) who originally appeared in a 1903 novella by the German writer, Wilhelmina Jensen. The story of Gradiva was popularised by Sigmund Freud four years later in his 1907 essay about dreams and delusions. Freud used the story as a metaphor for the psychoanalytic process but in Jensen’s original tale, a young archaeologist discovers a Roman bas-relief of a beautiful woman walking. He is fascinated by her form and becomes convinced that he can recognise it in a woman walking down the street, and then he dreams of encountering her in the ancient city of Pompeii. We later learn that his obsession is rooted in a repressed memory of a childhood love. Al-Hadid’s fascination with Gradiva can be linked to her deliberate use of repetition of particular forms in her work, which she re contextualises again and again in different guises.