The pop-art scene has been steadily growing in the Middle East over the past decades and more recently has reached a climactic point whereby ar tists across the region have been subconsciously connecting through the ethos' of their work. As more and more young artists embraced the visual aesthetics of pop style, they unintentionally created a flow of work that not only stands apart from elder practitioners but are also fresh in their topics and execution.
Recently, there has been a change in the visualization of the creative landscape by younger generations. Influenced by social media that has provided them with heightened exposure, they are willing to take chances by subtly weaving social commentary into their work. And no country in the Middle East is experiencing this more than Saudi Arabia
One such artist is 25-year old Noorah Kareem, a Saudi-American living in Riyadh, who, in the last few years, has already participated in many exhibitions proving herself to be an integral part of the creative community. Like many of her contemporaries, Instagram is her portfolio, word of mouth is her publicity and galleries are the framework for nurturing her work.
Kareem participated in a recent exhibition held at Alaan Artspace, a contemporary gallery in Riyadh, where her series "Me, My Selfie & I" clearly showcased her refined technique combined with a consciousness of her surroundings.The title alone reflects her self-awareness of mass culture whilst engaging the viewer in her quirky style. In what could be described as a Koon-esque type approach, Kareem takes the concerns of pop and blends it with cartoonish slants in order to explore themes of gender, culture, and self-expression. The result is an unexpected collection, which is both thought provoking and playful.
Growing up, she never imagined she would take on this career path but during her last year of high school the Art teacher picked her as a participant for a summer program for giftedness.That was the first time she considered the possibility of a future in arts for herself.
Art for Kareem is a way to document what she sees around her. She wants her pieces to generate conversation through familiarity. While painting, her mood goes through a series of emotions. "Like every creative process, first it's trying to gather as much information as you can to create a theme for a new body of work. Then I'm like super excited about the theme and idea! And somewhere along the middle you get lost, freak out, dig deeper and gather more information. And oh the happy and grateful feeling you get when it works out," says Kareem.
Unlike other pop-art aficionados, Kareem is not apathetic in her self-appreciation. Commenting on her own personal favorite artwork in the series, a girl taking a selfie, "I love her expression; the colors and I enjoyed working on the piece.The whole series was fun. Plus I'm pretty happy with the background, and I think I learned a lot from this project. What kind of art I want to make, the style I want to work in. It's one of those paintings that worked out and you're lucky enough to get to look back at it in a couple of years and say wow, I did that!"
Kareem's own style was influenced by the likes of the Os Gemeos, twin brothers from Portugal, who have a distinct style, color palette, and characters. Their influence is reflected through Kareem's sketch a day project. Calligrapher Elseed introduced Kareem to portraying culture and meaning in art to society, changing the way she presented her own culture. Another huge favorite for Kareem is French ar tist JR, whose humor and caricatures in unexpected places showed her the possibilities of human expression.
Despite her father having some reservations about her career choice, her parents are ver y suppor tive and Kareem finds living in Saudi Arabia provides bountiful ideas for her pieces. Combined with a flourishing art scene and growing interest in art from the general public, she feels there are plenty of opportunities for her to engage and grow. Kareem's ultimate aspiration is to create humorous yet philosophically deep pieces that will spark curiosity in the audience.
For more information on Noorah Kareem, visit @noorahkareem on Instagram
Words: Saira Malik