Deanna Hitti <em>M is for madraseh (school)</em> 2022–23; colour screenprint on cyanotype print; ed. 1/15.<br/>
Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2022<br/>
© Deanna Hitti

Deanna Hitti

Deanna Hitti
(b. 1975, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Deanna Hitti’s multidisciplinary practice explores the nuanced relationships between Middle Eastern and Western cultures. Informed by her Lebanese heritage, Hitti’s work often references historical and cultural material to reveal how perceptions of difference are constructed. Her large-scale prints and artist books employ various print methods, including cyanotypes, photography and screenprinting.

Hitti’s new work, M is for madraseh (school), 2022, is an extension of her installation A is for alam (pen), which was first exhibited as part of Handmade Universe at the State Library of Victoria in 2022. The series drew inspiration from histories of printing and publishing, presented as 156 double-sided floating pages that could be folded into books. Curator Linda Short describes the installation as a ‘challenge … [to] the history of the Western gaze’.

The work re-imagines over 100 images from French orientalist paintings made during the early period of colonialism. Hitti employs an historical method of reproduction, the cyanotype, to reclaim and reconfigure distorted depictions of Middle Eastern people, erasing and reprinting these archival images to transform their misrepresentations into ghostly presences. The work is then overlaid with a two-colour screenprint that teaches an Arabic-speaking child learning the English language how to write the Latin letter ‘m’, recalling textbooks that Hitti herself studied as preparation for starting school. The resulting work is a subtle commentary on how notions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ are formed, practised and contrived through both image and text.

In a career spanning more than twenty years, Hitti has exhibited nationally and internationally in group and solo shows. Her work has appeared at Fremantle Arts Centre, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art (Sydney), the Center for Book Arts (New York) and Impact 8 (Scotland), as well as art book fairs in Melbourne, Sydney and New York. Her artist book Towla won the Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award (2018), with other works shortlisted for the Darebin Art Prize (2019) and the National Works on Paper Prize (2018). Hitti has undertaken residencies and fellowships at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice (2017) and Guanlan Original Printmaking Base in China (2015), as well as Bundanon (New South Wales) and Megalo Print Studio (Canberra). Her works have been acquired by major Australian collections including the State Library Victoria and the National Library of Australia.