The first Taby exhibition, Arab Pop, is focused on Arabic artists working within the genre of Pop Art, an artistic movement developed in the 1960’s in America and Britain which drew inspiration from sources including popular and commercial culture, developing technology, and vibrant and euphoric aesthetic ideologies. Arabic Pop includes works from a number of Arab and Middle Eastern artists. It explores themes of commercialisation, popular culture, media signalling and the environment, all captured by emerging and established Arabic Artists. For this series, we decided to redirect a portion of our profits to Gaza Sky Geeks, a technology and innovation fund which was initiated in Gaza, Palestine 2011.We think pairing our first exhibition, Arab Pop, with this charity, is a perfect match. Gaza Sky Geeks works with teens and entrepreneurs in Gaza to provide high-speed internet access, facilities and mentorship with the intention of improving and upgrading Palestine’s digital community. Today, Gaza Sky Geeks have implemented Palestine’s first venture investments, provided a leading co-working space, educated in the field of technology, and brought together clients, freelancers and entrepreneurs to provide short and long-term employment to Palestinian digital workers.
When we apply the epithet “Pop” to art, it often encourages lines of thinking around euphoric, superficial aspects of society and the rapid progression of technology which occurred after WWII. Pop is a buzzword. It is cheerful, critical, ironic and quick to respond to the slogans of media and culture. It is, undoubtedly, an influential, rapidly moving and ever pertinent artistic style. Today, Pop Art has taken on new levels of meaning and development in the face of globalisation. In the 1960s, during the heyday of the movement, figures such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol presented Americanised ideas through their iteration of pop; today, as the internet has brought many of us closer and countries within the Middle East are undertaking their own stratospheric developments, pop has a key role to play in many artists search for identity in a globalised and consumption-oriented world.
Arab Pop, our first exhibition, is on display virtually now. We think it’s a perfect way to kick off our series, and hope you find the exhibit as a pertinent, pressing and thought-provoking display of contemporary Arabic art. We’d like to thank all of our artists who have partnered with us, and proudly welcome you to enjoy the work on display!
Shahad Nazer, Feature Artist, Arabic Pop
Shahad Nazer is a Saudi Arabian and Egyptian artist who primarily works in collage. Her artwork was included in Arab Pop, and we decided to interview her to get a better sense of her practice…
Taby: The current series is focused on Arabic Pop Art. Could you tell us a little bit more about the narrative of your works, and how you think they fit into this theme?
Shahad Nazer: So speaking about pop art, I think my work fits into it because it's a collage, and collage artworks are almost like Pop Art, the only difference is they are created through elements and images to make one big artwork.
Taby: I think you're right in that collage makes up a significant facet of pop art - it's an interesting methodology that enables one to splice multiple ideas and pieces of inspiration into one artwork.
Where do you go to find the images you use, and what makes you choose the images you do? And in regards to making the works, your process is largely digital I assume? So which pieces of software do you use, and why?
SN: Mostly online, I love exploring old photographs and mostly my favourite gallery would be from Shadi Ghadirian, an Iranian photographer. What makes me choose images is mostly how the women dress, and how close they look to the Arabian culture which is obviously where I'm from and what I represent and so does most of my female followers, and usually the artwork centres around women empowerment in the Arabian society.
I use photoshop, photoshop is an image editing software, and since I'm a collage artist then that's the best and suitable program to use for editing the images and piecing them together.
Taby: I agree. I definitely noticed a common thread of Arabic femininity when looking at your works. I think there's an interesting juxtaposition at play in many of them - the superimposition of strong female Arabic figures with what I consider a western aesthetic. I've noted references to classical/romantic art, Michelangelo's Hand of God, for example, cultural references like the work you made twisting Pacman, and a stylistic portrayal of women which reminds me of the way Madonna and Child paintings were set out. Is this something you're actively striving for, or just a result of the wide and global set of themes you end up exploring?
SN: It actually isn't intentional, not something I strive for, for me I focus more on how it would deliver the message, and if it's delivering it correctly.
Taby: It's certainly interesting how various influences can infiltrate artworks without us realising. Have your works always been made with the intention of delivering those messages? Or has the subject matter developed over time - if so, how long did it take you to get to the style of artmaking you work with now, and what were you making beforehand?
SN: No it didn't start that way. It started as more like showing off my creativity, and what I can do with collage. And then later on when I got the unexpected recognition and growth, I started using my artwork and platform for more important topics. Topics I couldn't translate into spoken words. I've been doing collage art since October 2017. Before that, I was into Pencil sketching, and I was a pencil artist for a very long time, ever since I was 10 years old.
Taby: Definitely, art is a wonderful forum to challenge. How was it to make that transition, and how did your follower base receive your works becoming more 'challenging', so to speak.
Lastly, I'd just like to ask what's next for you. Finishing school, and upcoming projects to work on, and topics or themes you see entering your work soon?
SN: That transition happened when I first started to learn the basics of photoshop in college, and I loved the program so I wanted to create a type of digital art using photoshop. I found drawing on photoshop very hard for me so I moved to experimenting with collage instead, and I loved it! I think those who followed me from the start of my journey can notice the difference between let’s say, my first few collages and my last ones, there's a huge difference in creativity, and the complexity of each collage and the topics get more intense and more powerful.
I already finished school, it's been almost a year and a half since I graduated from college. And I still do freelance work aside from my job, which is a senior graphic designer at al Nahdi medical company. The last freelance work I got was a few days ago and it's super exciting!! And I can’t wait to announce soon to everyone but for now, it'll remain a secret.
Thanks again to our feature artist, Shahad Nazer, and all participating artists within Taby's first exhibition, Arabic Pop. We hope you all enjoy the show!
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