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The powerful, extreme image of a young, distressed boy covered in rubble rescued from the destruction caused from the Syrian war on August 17, 2016 taken by activist Mahmoud Raslan and released by the Aleppo Media Center triggered my fascination particularly with regards to the theme of corruption in society and disparities encompassing aspects relating to cultural, racial and gender inequalities.

  • Fenella

I have always been intrigued by how much attention is suddenly given to severe ‘global crisis’ with the power of sense perception. My intentions with my exhibition is to provide visual messages to the audience, to communicate the intensity of the lack of unity the world is currently experiencing. Through the power of art, I want to connect to the audience, to reach them on a personal level. Some of my work has been inspired by current global affairs such as the 2016 US elections, Syrian refugee crisis, several observational changes within today’s society and a first-hand service expedition to Tanzania. It was an extremely eye-opening experience and the contrasts between wealth and quality of living with the background I grew up in, allowed it to be the main focus for some of my pieces. Making this visceral connection, out of my normal life context is key to understanding my intentions.

Many of my pieces were inspired by Tanzania as most of the activities consisted of long hours in the sun, doing labor intensive work for small-scale projects; such as helping a family to a larger-scale of brick-building a Primary school and this altered my perspective on life as I had a new-found appreciation on people’s consistent courage through the toughest of situations. One of the most memorable experiences there was watching children run along the road with the happiest smiles and waves. I was struck by their ability to find joy in such desperate situations; many of these children were orphans or had experienced the worst tragedies imaginable but maintained a level of optimism throughout, never losing hope. The images I saw will forever be engraved in my memory and will never fade.

Other threads that are incorporated into my work include human rights, predominantly women’s right to freedom of expression and education, or religious issues regarding Islamophobia. Moreover, I touch on topics such as the struggle of poverty, corruption and children. The image of the Islamic community that has been presented to the media is biased and has led people into thinking that Muslims are a global threat, which has not only affected me personally but many Muslims in the world, it has resulted in the feeling of fear and rejection. Not only this, but the Muslim community consists of many unique individuals who are unfortunately labelled as a whole. This fundamental part of our identity is attacked. Some of my pieces hope to see how dynamic and strong those who identify themselves as Muslims are and to further expose the peaceful, community-based aspect to Islam which is often put aside. Those who feed into this misconception prevent themselves from learning about this diverse culture and continue to conform with many of society’s beliefs and attitudes. Through the artist “Chuck Close” I became more engrossed by patterns and wanted to pursue the beauty of Islam through the iconic Islamic patterns as seen in the work “Kaleidoscope.”

Another consequence for people who tend to adhere to conformity within society is changing their identity to please others, whilst they end up being unhappy in their own skin. Being controlled by all the pressures and norms of society lessens an individual’s uniqueness, acting as a roadblock along the path to self-discovery. My work hopes to be a reminder that we possess specific characteristics which distinguish us from the rest of the crowd. The works in particularly which reflect these issues are titled “Conformity” and “Drained identity.” The work “Conformity” has been heavily influenced by artist Mihail Korubin, through his pieces he often portrays the vulnerability of whereas this work portrays the inner conflict one experiences with their contrasting interests. An inevitable feature of maturity is developing changes in behavior whilst losing existing ones, which are dominantly illustrated through the use of bold, contrasting colours. Linking to religion, the conflict here can further be seen through the patterns, as the conflict can revolve around self-expression and one’s devotion to their faith. Furthermore, “Drained identity” entails one’s originality and reflects the same person progressing, however through each stage they start losing colour, and as a result lose their uniqueness. The people becoming statue-like towards the end can demonstrate our greed-driven society, where individuals become more dull and narrow-minded and thus a loss of colour is presented. The first step to avoid group mentality is to start owning individualism. I have presented the subjects in my work in distress and isolation mainly through body language, and the chosen colours.

As my theme deals with socio-political aspects of society, my exhibition will be laid out accordingly. I want the connection between the viewer and my works to be personal to an extent, and bring relevance to them somehow; whether it is enlightening their perspective on a situation or to simply leave them speechless with a mixture of emotions. Therefore, I will conclude with a quote I stumbled upon in Tanzania: Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” (Twain, n.d.)