The Cherry On Top was the solo exhibition of Jordanian painter, Khaldoun Hijazin, exhibited at Tabari Artspace, Dubai. The Cherry On Top comprised 10 oil on canvas and acrylic on canvas paintings, as well as two large-scale objects produced in 2021.
Our societies were marked by their quest for truth and transparency, yet the body of work produced by Khaldoun Hijazin for The Cherry On Top exposed the complex network of control and manipulation that framed our existence. The artist exposed the then current post-truth space where political and ideological discourses were largely accepted to be both staged and falsified. Through his explorations, Hijazin shattered and subverted thinly veiled illusions, revealing the performative and inherited nature of our actions, our simultaneous awareness and acceptance of the theatre of leadership, and the fragility of grandeur.
Through dark humour and pastiche, Hijazin dissected and dissolved structures of power and dominance in realms from the political to the social. Hijazin understood his art to be an exploration that facilitated the flow of various ideas and concepts, rather than a process of direct commentary or documentation. Influences from reading critical theory, as well as Marxist and deconstructive discourse, were evident in the artist’s practice, particularly in this series.
From the boardroom to the dining table, Hijazin’s characters were lodged in social settings marked by haunting legacies of propaganda, capitalism, and colonialism. The artist wove together a complex constellation of signs and signifiers, lifted from various moments in time and social and cultural contexts. As such, his scenes, existing in the non-linear moment that he established, were difficult to place. Some fragments in his works Middle Feast, Cookie Jar, and The Cherry on Top - from which the exhibition took its title - appeared to have roots in early twentieth-century Arab Bedouin communities, while others such as Familiar Faces, Shattered Illusions, and Mind the Gap spawned from mid-century Western lobbies, alluding to colonial and hegemonic legacies. Hijazin was preoccupied with the notion of legacies - events of the past that continued to recur and inform the present. His compositions took on complex and multilayered meanings. The imposition of markers such as the broken chandelier in Shattered Illusions denoted the collapse of the illusion of ‘true’ progress as claimed by the canon of neoliberalism, while the insertion of a black hole in Mind the Gap materialized the then ongoing debate surrounding political transparency and the deliberate disappearance of information.
Guy Debord’s concept in the ‘Society of the Spectacle’ - where appearances superseded substance - and Judith Butler’s notion of performativity were pronounced in the actions of Hijazin’s characters, particularly in their hand gestures.
The imposition of color in order to obscure and transform the faces of his characters - often authoritative figures - also recurred throughout several works, including Sincerest Masquerade, Familiar Faces, and Faithfully Yours. Hijazin contended that figures of authority and influence shifted their colors like chameleons and ‘put on their face’ before their public performance.
Throughout history, scale had been used to assert the importance and power of nobility. In this context, Hijazin’s use of large-scale both referenced and subverted this tradition. Despite the magnitude of the artist’s 3.5-meter long Shattered Illusions, the frame was cropped so that only the polished shoes of the elite were revealed. This close framing kept the viewer guessing who and what might have been obscured, alluding to secret, high-level discussions taking place in a male-dominated space.
The two large-scale objects that completed this body of work - Fall From Grace and Tower of Desire - took the throne and the cake as superficial and inflated signifiers of success and celebration. Hijazin, investing these icons with cynicism, had left them tilted and imperfect, ready to topple down onto the gallery floor.