//MEGHRAOUA 8-11 MARCH 2016 //BRIXTON EAST
Curated by Reime Gedal for #occupyarabart
The aesthetic of ‘symbols’ have deep significance in cultures across the world; people connect to shapes, the way lines interact, and repetition on an emotional level for reasons not always immediately comprehensible. In feeling familiarity with such forms we recognise a past, a memory, a heritage and in return give meaning to visuals so often used today with disregard. The aim here is to RECLAIM.
//MEGHRAOUA seeks to explore and reclaim the ability of symbols to transcribe systems of knowledge and to create narratives. The concepts that compel the work are expressed through indigenous markings and ways of communication, coloured by a very personal blend of influences reflective of the European immigrant experience with strong urban influence. Be it from hip-hop culture to post-colonial literature. In respecting the strengths and meaning of the origin what is symbolised begins to take new and contemporary forms.
Born in Bulgaria in 1990 to an Algerian father and Bulgarian mother Meryem spent her formative years between Paris and the UK. Raised in a household where art was at the forefront, across cultures and countries, her concept of identity and vision formed early and as a result is powerfully evident as a driving force in much of her work.
Meryem completed a BA in Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art in 2012 before moving to the University of the Arts, London to undertake an MA. In studying at a higher level she was able to hone and develop her fascination with graphic design and post-colonial theory going on to graduate in 2014. Meryem began forging a career in advertising that has led to her designing for a range of high profile clients such as Levis, the BBC and currently as a designer for Nike. As well as creating an ever growing body of personal work Meryem has also embarked on creative collaborations with British Muslim Hip Hop duo ‘Poetic Pilgrimage’ and the meaningful aesthetics collective ‘Beni’.
Running alongside her career Meryem’s studio practice combines traditional fine art forms of painting with the application of multi discipline techniques of screen printing, riso printing and video work. Currently based in Brixton, London, Meryem has exhibited previously in group shows, most recently in the ‘No Shade Art Show’, LA, in February of this year. //MEGHRAOUA is Meryem’s inaugural solo show and she will also be participating in Arab Women Artists Now, London, March 2016.
//MEGHRAOUA looks to reflect a personal and contemporary response to North African symbolism and of how colour and repetition can affect the subconscious. The choice of visuals on display here are those that have the strongest emotional resonance with the artist herself. Inspired by her Afro European heritage she often finds herself exercising subconscious healing through the depiction of themes such as fertility and cycles within nature. Much is born when cultures merge and communities form outside of where their roots lie and it is these urban backdrops and soundtracks that colour Meryem’s approach.
At the core of her craft Meryem aims to explore indigenous methods of mark making through a diasporic lens. Through an exploration of geometry she uses a looser gestural approach allowing what is typically rigid in structure to flow organically. This logic will create visual movement, undulating dimensions and subtle optical illusions. The desired effect is to captivate and stimulate a sense of self contemplation, akin to spiritual experiences, created to interact with one another synergistically.
Exhibiting at the heart of Brixton, //MEGHRAOUA seeks to create affirmations, looking to re-define and re-claim identities that form urban communities and more personally the complexities and facets of being female, Muslim and an artist in Britain today.
Occupy Arab Art were drawn to this body of work for our debut occupation of physical space as we found it to be a powerful representation of our own ethos. Our platform was created for the sharing and understanding of what it is to be an artist of Arab heritage or influence and in //MEGHRAOUA we see a dedication to redefining and reclaiming cultural symbols, transformed into contemporary art forms that reflect the whole of the artist.
When you are of mixed heritage and you are of the ‘diaspora’ there can often be an internal struggle between the reclamation of one’s cultural identity and of being defined by it. What we saw in the work exhibited in //MEGHRAOUA was a real sense of ownership and strength, unapologetic in its delivery. In this debut exhibition we are able to demonstrate what it is we hope to achieve, the showcasing of emerging contemporary artists with roots in the Arab world to a wider audience.
The pieces that make up the B+W series of the //MEGHRAOUA exhibit are an exploration of a year’s worth of obsession with the ways in which repetition and visual echoing create intensity when married to the use of a monotone pallet. When viewed in series, the black and white works; organic in their expression, intensify and overwhelm the audience with their messages, allowing them to be consumed by the sense of rhythm experienced by the artist in their creation. Individually each piece begins with a representative mark that when repeated, becomes the power that conveys the concept. The replication itself plays an integral role in experiencing the works, offering different meanings to each viewer.
The journey in black and white begins with the ‘fertility series’, made up of 15 pieces speaking on beginnings and cycles endured within the female experience. Focusing on the concept of feminine energy and the power to endure change, this work is in essence an exploration of the woman, and in stripping back to monotone the eye rests on each individual mark and the ways in which they interact with each other.
Following on from the fertility series are a set of individual elements that are powerful in their singularity. Each represents one essential facet of the human experience, highlighting the symbols in their rawest form. The exploration in black and white culminates in a single large scale work in which connections are made to a longing for nature amidst an urban reality through the artist’s experience.
The creation of each piece is driven by instinct and intuition, the execution is rarely planned and often changes throughout the process. ‘Mistakes’ do not exist as any imperfections are embraced as part of the process. For the artist this becomes a personal spiritual experience. Linking to repetition, oneness and Dhikr*. Allowing instinct and trust to dominate and counter balance with the rigidity and perfection required in other aspects of the artist’s life.
The spiritual concept of looking both inward and outward to gain a true understanding of the self is reflected in the intricacy of each piece. Playing with scale and intensity when viewed in series, this is done in order to captivate and allow audiences to also understand the therapeutic contemplation through the works. In //MEGHRAOUA B+W, the focus in on the journey, beginning with what it means to be a woman and creating emotions visually through the reclaiming of marks that link to her roots.
*Dhikr : Remembrance
The pieces that form COLOUR in //MEGHRAOUA are exhibited in order to overwhelm the space with bright pigments and message, creating emotional connections and honouring the cultures and communities of the diaspora. Each piece on show is loaded with meaning, telling stories through symbols and the ways they are combined.
The plurality of symbols is something that underlies all the works that make up the elements of the show. The artists fascinations are reflected with the ways in which the same marks can occur in different parts of the indigenous world yet have different connotations. The symbols are representative of an object or fundamental concept which in turn reflect the social structures and ideologies of everyday life. Taking the variations of the triangle as a core example; where in Peruvian tribes can be sometimes representative of fields and vegetation, as opposed to a fertile woman amongst some North African tribes. Thereby when touched by the artist, coloured by her mixed heritage and her place in the world can represent something new or altered relating to her reclaimed past and present experience. Language is renewed and symbols line up to tell stories crafted by the artist.
The colours most customarily associated with traditional indigenous works are earth tones, muted and organic. The use of vivid tones here and in some places even fluorescent, electric hues celebrates the new forms that these visuals have taken. This contemporary palette pays homage to street culture, and graffiti influences as well as neo-expressionist ideologies, and modern processed aesthetics which in turn create contrast. The elements within COLOUR differ from the work exhibited in B+W, not only in the application of colour but in the scale of the elements. Here we see them enlarged, separated and their meaning amplified. When viewed in series the work increases in intensity and the colours themselves encourage a trancelike experience portraying a 21st century spirituality, bridging both worlds together.
The colour series of // MEGHRAOUA articulates roots in the language of our elders transformed to speak to our children. The work tells us of an artist reclaiming her culture and celebrating the social makeup of the diaspora, sharing the influences that have shaped her life, way of thinking and of what it is to document, reclaim and affirm one’s own identity.
We are proud to have had the night co-hosted by BARBEDOUN. A traveling bar based on a philosophy of alcohol-free alchemy; engineered by a diasporic collective, experimenting with culinary arts and the reclaiming cultural absences.