Featured Artist: Manar Al Shouha | Cassandra Voices

Featured Artist: Manar Al Shouha


How would you define yourself as an artist?

In fact I feel more like a researcher trying to find the truth about herself, her uniqueness and her art fingerprint. For me art is a kind of meditation where I reach the inner self.

Each painting is not only a scene. It’s a journey through my deep self.

I believe that the reason we are here as humans on earth is to try and reach our inner selves.

 Was there a particular moment in your life that you felt an artistic awakening?

As a child I was slow to develop my speech and writing abilities. I always favoured drawing. Even at school, I used to sneak out of classes and go to the drawing room instead. Since I came to the realization of this art world, I can’t believe for a second that I can work in any other career.

How did your teachers assist in the development of your artistic practice?

My teacher is called Bassem. He taught me that my only teachers in life should be myself and books. He used to tell me that he is only there to encourage and guide me. By the time I started studying art at university, he had already left teaching because of the war conditions and had gone to another university. In order to reach him, I had to walk for miles, just to have him look at my work. His opinion was more important to me than the mark I received.

Your mother is one of your recurring subjects. How did she influence your creativity and personality?

She was a teacher of mathematics in the same school that I attended. She used to come and check on me during the day, any time she didn’t find me in the class. She would take me from the drawing-room. She used to get angry at my begging her to relent, but after a while she understood my nature and began providing me with materials and even booked me into art classes. She was always talking to me as a unique person and saying that when choosing anything I should follow my heart. She used to energize me mentally and physically. My mother used to help me prepare canvases before I started painting, organise my studio and tidy it up in a way that didn’t distress me. She always tried to interpret my work and was always happy with my achievements. More than I ever was.

Ultimately, she is the reason I am here now.

 Which of your works do you feel best represents your oeuvre?

There are two of them in particular. The first is one of a woman sitting down, painted with two colours only and a font. It’s painted in a highly impressionistic way. I completed this work in 2021.

The second painting shows a social gathering for two women painted in a sketched style with warm neutral colours. I made this in 2016.

In what way does politics enter your art?

On account of my lack of freedom in expressing myself, and because the media doesn’t always show the more interesting angles in the news, I decided to reveal my nation’s suffering in my own distinctive way, through my art.

Damascus is always appearing in your work and your thoughts, would you like to say something about this city?

Damascus was the capital of the Umayyads, the dream of Abbasids, and is one of the oldest capital cities of the Islamic world.

In spite of the war, I felt safe walking down its alleys and roads. This is not an ordinary city. It holds a lot of energy. Looking at the ancient monuments, I used to feel its greatness. I represent Damascus as a lady who has faced hardship through the years, but has managed to preserves an elegance. One day prosperity will return, as has occurred throughout the city’s history, for it possesses a wealth of energy.

Has any artist from history had a particular influence on you?

I like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Honoré Daumier and Egon Schiele.

What particular technique is at core of your practice?

Sketching. I like the strong impression of a sketch. I find myself attracted more to the expressive school, through the use of neutral translucent colours and heavy fonts.

Have you integrated other disciplines or artistic forms into your painting?

No, but in my first year of university I studied five general artistic fields. I liked sculpture and engraving, especially Honoré Daumier works. I think one day I will study this discipline more deeply.

I particularly love your paintings portraying people commuting and traveling. What is so enticing for you about these subjects?

Regarding the painting of the bus scenes, when I start painting, I always ask myself why I am doing it? When I used to take the bus, I watched people gazing out the windows, some were angry but couldn’t express themselves, and some were looking over their shoulders as if they were waiting for time to go back.

I felt it was not a bus, but a boat taking us away from our country and away from our present and making us live in the past. Then I started painting it again. I wanted to apologise, but somehow I was painting to say that what happened wasn’t our faults.

In future I want to make fingerprint through my art. I want my paintings to be alive so I can live through them. Not for a moment have I felt that I am Picasso or Goya. They are dead. But when I looked at their paintings, I always felt that I am talking to them.

Follow Manar on Instagram

Kindly translated by Jennifer Boktor and Nermine Abdel Malak

Manar is preparing for a new exhibition in September in Rathfarnham Castle, and recently moved to the Lodge Studio with the organisation Common Ground.

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