Syrian artist, Manal Jarmoukly’s latest exhibition, Shades of a Woman, is currently on display at Centro Barsha hotel until October 16. Born in Damascus, the 36-year-old currently lives in Dubai and is also the marketing and communication executive at the Al Barsha hotel, operated by Rotana. The part-time artist’s work has been showcased in exhibitions and workshops across Syria, UAE, Iran and Turkey.
‘I always used to draw and colour in books as a child and I used to beg my parents to get me new pens or new books to fill with my drawings. There is something very special about the moment when you have an idea and it starts to come to life on paper. As a child I was always being creative, drawing and making anything and everything beautiful. Beauty continues to be the top priority in my art works,’ Manal explains.
Having graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Visual communication at Damascus University, Manal’s 15 works are based on her personal experiences as a woman.
‘The exhibition explores different moments of a woman’s life and her feelings, the theatricality of female desire, and the inner pain suffered through the pursuit of prescribed and aspirational notions of identity and success. It’s really about how I myself, as a woman, perceive the environment where I have lived and
grown up. The paintings emphasise feelings and physical aspects of women. Each painting shows an intimate, mysterious female character, which I have highlighted with warm colours, to show the real feelings of women in their daily lives,’ she explains.
Inspired by her mother, the works represent Manal’s feelings and how women have various moods, spirits and dimensions to their personality. ‘My mother has always been passionate about painting and since I was a child she’s always offered me the tools to be creative and be expressive. My artistic process happens through the inspiration from an event, or a reading or feelings, something that touches my soul. Personal accomplishment is my main motivator. When I set a goal and I achieve it, I yearn for more and this is seen through my paintings. I think this is a great opportunity for art enthusiasts to explore a woman’s world as seen through an Arab woman’s eyes.’
Each of Manal’s works highlight common emotions that women share, which are displayed through a series of female figures, bird imagery and Arabic quotes.
‘Syria isn’t in a good situation right now, it’s full of pain and sadness and yet there is a desire and feeling of hope from its people. All of these feelings are reflected in my paintings. There are dark hues representing sadness and the purple and pink colours and light blues show the hope of tomorrow and what might be for the future of ourselves and our children. The theme of my works is still the same, as I believe that I still need to explore the nature of women, however, the patterns and techniques are different in the latest exhibition. I’m using mixed media, which is a mix of different materials such as collage and acrylic colours,’ explains Manal.
One of the images in the exhibition is particularly striking, featuring a bird with wings outspread on a pale green background. The quotes written on the piece translate to, ‘I want to fly. I want to go out, the sky is the limit. I want freedom,’ while another reads, ‘I really can’t understand what’s happening around me’.
‘Each painting has a message. The works reflect the situation in Syria as well as the feelings of women on a daily basis. Some mothers are finding it hard finding food for their children. It’s about the hardship and sadness that some women are having to go through. It’s not easy being a mother in certain countries where there is grief and conflict,’ she says.
Manal wanted to convey these feeling of sadness and hope through the positions of the women’s hands in the paintings, as well as the look reflected in their eyes.
‘The women in the paintings have a sadness inside, but they are trying to protect themselves and build a wall up. The artworks show female suffering but at the same time the desire for freedom and to be strong, to fly like a bird with no limitations.’
For those who want to gain an insight into the female mind, Shades of a Woman could be a good place to start.
Exhibition: Shades of a Woman
Until October 16. Centro Barsha by Rotana, Al Barsha (04 704 0000).