Firetti Contemporary is pleased to present Eyes Wide Shut, a collective exhibition including ten women artists from the UAE, Iran, Armenia, Ukraine, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait.
The exhibition embodies a visual exploration on a wide range of socio-political issues through multidisciplinary mediums, such as painting, collage, video, and installation. Eyes Wide Shut is a dialogue of individual styles by women artists belonging to three different generations (Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z) who, whilst navigating their own path, question familiar narratives and shed light on pressing issues.
Collectively, the artists in Eyes Wide Shut investigate a variety of themes, including cultural and gender identity; interpersonal relationships; and more broad sociopolitical dynamics, both in their locale and beyond. Individually, their probing investigations stir discussions and draw attention to their diverse and varied experiences as they adopt a personal, intimate lens. Following this line of inquiry, each artist conveys the struggles and conflicts they encounter as women, both privately and publicly, while bringing together fresh perspectives and approaches to both traditional and new mediums. With the intent to reveal the new forms of consciousness that have emerged in recent years, the featured works transcend gender and cultural differences, venturing into a more universal sense of human nature.
These women challenge preconceived notions and expose blind spots; they teach us to see and think anew. Eyes Wide Shut is thus an invitation to shift our perspectives and to open our eyes to the realities of our contemporary world.
The themes of war and displacement are recurring amongst the artists in Eyes Wide Shut. The paintings by Annie Kurkdjian are a “breathing tragedy” that interrogate us about life itself, compelling viewers to contemplate the process of creation. Through her works, Kurkdijian depicts her trauma caused by sixteen years of civil war within her homeland, Beirut, Lebanon, and the traumatism of the Armenian genocide lived through her grandmother’s history. Her childhood was marked by the noise of bombs, terror, permanent insecurity and the inconsistency of ordinary things.
On the other hand, young Ukrainian artist, Maria Shapranova, highlights the current tragedies taking place in Ukraine. Maria’s mixed-media collages reflect on the resilience and strength of women in Ukraine against their current battle with Russia. Her practice involves collage, where she constructs a new reality using existing elements from magazines, photos, etc. Her works are bold and filled with pride for Ukraine, Ukrainians, who are sacrificing their lives and fighting for freedom. Ukrainian culture symbolism is shown in every detail of her collages.
The ongoing tragedy in Ukraine and the loss of a homeland are presented once again through the works of Amani Al Thuwani. The multidisciplinary artist was born and spent her early childhood in Ukraine constantly watching fairytales such as The Nut Cracker and avidly drawing stories of love and weddings including brides with long braids, folk headpieces and big dresses. After relocating to Kuwait, she discovered the local marriage traditions and rituals that became the starting point of a work that analyzes her cultural identities while questioning the commodification of marriage and luxury-consumer culture. For this exhibition, Al Thuwaini convokes in a dream-like manner her childhood memories and confronts them with contemporary realities while paying tribute to her native city, Kharkiv. For Althuwani, the current destruction of Ukraine both annihilates the possibility of one day reconnecting with the places of her early years and presenting them to her children. Art then becomes a way to preserve and pass along these memories against the attempted erasure of a country.
For multidisciplinary Saudi-based Palestinian artist, Qamar Abdulmalik, art is a way to bring forth her personal experiences as a Palestinian refugee and the global systems that impact the Arab diasporas. For this exhibition, Abdulmalik invites us into a surreal journey where her alter ego is transported by an elevator into a fairy-tale world made of papier-mâché. The sixth floor transposes the office of the same number at the Egyptian embassy in Riyadh that handles identity papers for Palestinian refugees, thus bringing focus to the seemingly mundane day-to-day happenings that are prominent struggles in the lives of undocumented immigrants. Layering her distinctive dark humour with a childlike, enchanting dimension, Cut and Paste Dreams, evokes the artist’s intimate experience while emphasizing the power of dreams to transform reality.
By combining contemporary architecture production processes with traditional art production techniques, Syrian artist, Sawsan Al Bahar,explores “looking at the meaning of Time to the people of the Middle East”, often by referencing the past and addressing the issues and events of the 19th and 20th century. Al Bahar is inspired by themes of time, politics, and history within the Middle East, and aims to record history through her work and document the states that are singular to this region. Al Bahar emphasizes the fact that art is a mirror to history and society.
In the works of Iranian artist, Negin Fallah,we encounter a constant dialogue between chaos and harmony. Her artworks are depictions of figurative forms, scripts and symbols, benefiting from various fine arts genres. She transforms scenes into metaphorical images that are deeply touched by personal stories, philanthropic ideals, and inspirations from oriental themes and landscapes. In Eyes Wide Shut, Fallah’s works explore unrealistic societal expectations that tend to define the positional role of females as whether a daughter, a sister, a wife and most importantly a mother. Fallah highlights the women of faith, those who have been historically playing a pivotal role in challenging gender inequality, and those who continue to defy stereotypes in politics, and societies.
Emirati artist, Afra Al Suwaidi, creates works that defy “expectations”. In Eyes Wide Shut, Al Suwaidi reveals the perseverance of powerful women of the Middle East through a series of mixed media collage works. These works investigate the public versus the private domain, as they both relate differently to the untold stories of women stigmatized, stifled, and forgotten beneath cultural and societal constraints. Al Suwaidi’s work challenges these notions to “uncover the authentic experiences of women, let voices, so often silenced, be heard, share their stories to give international audiences insight into their conditions and most importantly empower women around the world.”
Young Emirati artist, Khawla Al Marzooqi, similarly reflects on the everyday life of Khaleeji women, drawing inspiration from her own life and conversations with women from all walks of life. Her practice is marked by a sense of childishness, which comes from communicating with and healing her inner child. Al Marzooqi is fuelled by the desire to master the ability, through painterly technique, to ‘show’ the real anger and emotion that comes with being a woman.
Topics of identity and environment are further explored by Alymamah Rashed, a Kuwaiti visual artist who investigates the discourse of her own body, fluctuating between the east and the west. Her work negotiates her female subjectivity, regional folklore, and the banal objects that she encounters in her everyday life. In Eyes Wide Shut, Rashed presents a large new work that weaves a poetic series in which rare remnants of nature become a metaphor for the artist’s spiritual journey, the relationship to her body, and depicting the spirit of her encounterings as a saviour for her soul.
Egyptian artist, Amina Yahia, explores the idea of control, both in terms of how women’s roles are determined by society and reinforced by the state. For this exhibition, her work is concerned with concepts of power, authority, class, autonomy, gender, desire, control and perception and the relationships between them. Her works investigate internal human processes that drive the need for control or agency. The socio-political conditions she portrays in her paintings are realized through the depiction of intimate settings. They mostly draw inspiration from family images to portray the coexistence of authority and autonomy in a highly controlled society.