Jordanian artist Shereen Audi unveils Dreams Give Hope, her 10th solo show and her first foray into the multifaceted world of collage.
Shereen Audi began exhibiting in 1995, having graduated a few years previously from the Institute of Fine Arts. She worked almost exclusively on painting in these early years – mostly acrylic on canvas or paper. Black, white and red dominated her works, the harshness contrasting with her characteristic naive style. The themes mostly revolved around women, in an attempt to address their lack of freedom, opportunities and equality. Later, she would expand into mixed media, video art and photography, all the while sticking with the same theme.
In terms of style, Audi’s latest works are a complete departure from her previous oeuvre. Dreams Give Hope unveiled an altogether lighter, more naturalistic and almost wistful aesthetic, carried out in a medium that was new to the artist: collage. “Collage appeals to me because it is so versatile,” she explains. “There are so many possibilities, and I’m still discovering more.” Audi’s stark colours have given way to subtler tones of blush pinks and velvety greens, while each work is overlaid with a subtle grey wash, which she explains was in order to give a dreamlike air. One distinctive aspect remains, however, from Audi’s previous pieces: the stripes. “These are like my signature,” Audi explains. “I wanted to take a small part of what I did before and add it to my new works, to give them some continuity.”
The canvases are populated with images of women, birds, leaves and flowers. Sourcing these images was the most difficult aspect of creating this series, according to Audi. “I always think about the painting in my head before I begin, then I look for images on the Internet and in magazines, but it’s very hard to find images that match my vision. Sometimes I can’t finish a painting until I find the right shape – I’ll be thinking about it all night!” In a continuation of her previously explored theme, these collages also reflect the position of women across the world. “As a woman, I’m not only expressing myself, but I’m trying to express a shared experience that is common to many, many women. We get trapped in certain situations, by our family or by society, and if you’re a free spirit you’ll feel like you’re suffering.” Audi does not wish to make her work overly “depressing,” however; “The flowers show beauty, which can always be found. The leaves and branches give a positive feeling, and the wings represent a desire for freedom. “People told me that they took away a good feeling from my paintings, so I’m glad.”
Indeed, positivity seems to be an important personal philosophy for Audi, who insists that she feels incredibly blessed to be an artist. “As an artist, you live a more interesting life,” she laughs. “I make two worlds for myself: one with my family and one with my art. I can spend hours running away from reality!” She encourages her two young children to appreciate culture – theatre and music as well as the visual arts – something which she believes is vital to encouraging artistic participation in Jordan.