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Art Alert: Syrian artist explores Arab Spring's 'veiled reality'

In her latest exhibition, which opened Sunday at the Zamalek Art Gallery, Syrian-born artist Souad Mardam Bey reflects on socio-political life post-'Arab Spring'

Ahram Online, Monday 13 May 2013
Painting by Souad Mardam Bey.
Painting by Souad Mardam Bey. (Photo: courtesy of Zamalek Art Galley)
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In her most recent exhibition, which debuted on 12 May at the Zamalek Art Gallery, Syrian-born artist Souad Mardam Bey explores contemporary socio-political life. With her trademark oversized canvases adorned with layers of colour and a range of motifs and icons, the artist has painted a series of figures hidden behind large sunglasses, representing obstructed vision.

The artist is troubled by the prevailing uncertainty that has sprung from the so-called 'Arab Spring'; she therefore decided to create a series of paintings that capture the Middle East's 'veiled reality.' The pair of eyes that usually represents the enchanting focal point of her paintings are, in this collection, covered with spectacles to symbolise the vague future that lies ahead.

In the second part of her collection, the artist paints women wrapped in layers of clothes, their hair covered in elaborate veils. Reminiscent of veiled women seen walking through the streets of Cairo today, these portraits are mostly black and white – in contrast with previous collections that featured rich palettes.

Mardam Bey draws her inspiration from the street. She is fascinated by cosmopolitan cities, where different cultures converge. Her larger-than-life canvases usually portray otherworldly figures dressed elaborately in costumes inspired by the visual culture Mardam Bey witnesses every day.

Born in Damascus, she studied philosophy and art in Beirut. She lived in Montreal, Canada for a few years before moving to Cairo in 2001.

Programme:
The exhibition runs until 4 June

Zamalek Art Gallery: 11 Brazil Street, Zamalek, Cairo

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