Ayyam Gallery Al Quoz, Dubai, is pleased to announce the solo exhibition "Popcornographic" by the Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin, a new series of 15 paintings all of which challenge conventional perceptions of what it is to be a woman and a Muslim in 21st-Century Kuwait. Having divorced and forged a career as a successful artist, Amin is compelled to address problems she herself has endured and survived.
Amin marries two aesthetics throughout this body of work. There is flesh on show suggesting freedom, but mouths are also gagged, alluding to oppression and a lack of freedom of speech. Sex and religious fervour also repeatedly collide and Amin precisely entwines them to comment on political and social conventions.
Rather than courting controversy, Amin invites her viewer to begin a conversation and urges that, though unorthodox, change must be embraced for people to coexist peacefully and with respect. There is a new cultural landscape through which the citizens of divided nations must navigate and Shurooq Amin takes the first steps here. She states, “I’m trying to confront the taboos that remain in our society, the disastrous ramifications of which are damaging us all.”
Amin believes that the obsession with the appearance and demeanour of women, the stigmas attached to adopting modern fashion and western aesthetic codes, results in significant destructive conflicts. She is aware that in the eyes of many she has adopted the role of ‘provocateur’, but she inverts this in order to reinforce her argument. These works are not profane, they are defiant; they are not rebellious, rather they seek to hold a mirror up to the establishment.
In her critique of social taboos, Amin is very aware of the importance of humour and this satirical approach is reflected in the show’s title. She explains, “It is not a real word, and therefore cannot be censored”. The idea of ‘subjective censorship’ is one that she returns to again and again, frequently alluding to famous and often banned novels in the titles of her works, such as "To Kill a Mocking Girl" and "A Tale of Two Muslims".
"Of Wives and Men" (2013) links to both the title of John Steinbeck’s "Of Mice and Men" and the novel’s content. Amin presents us with a young girl draped in white fabric and clasped possessively at the side of an older man wearing a tuxedo. This clear reference to the controversial practice of child marriage draws haunting parallels between the thrusting of child brides into an adult relationship they are not ready for and the exploitation of Steinbeck’s character Lennie, who is mentally-impaired and incapable of fully understanding the adult world that he inhabits.
Painting in acrylic, a synthesised and modern medium, Amin fills the frame with blocks of vivid colour. Intricate detail and collage invite the viewer to examine every inch of the picture, absorbing each layer. Partially obscured motifs and figures sport clothing that is almost, but not quite, traditional. In doing so, Amin ignites the debate once more. Handbags, iPads and patent leather stilettos bear exaggerated glossy highlights as if a flashbulb had popped near the surface of the canvas, turning the spotlight on her subjects.
Alongside the exhibition, Ahmad Morshedloo will present an ambitious interactive octagonal installation commissioned by The Samawi Collection, which presents the viewer with drawings showing a split view of a crowd of people, dividing heads and torsos from legs and feet. Separating these two layers is a mirrored section running the length of the drawings, reflecting the viewer’s own body and thereby absorbing them into the fragmented composition.