Dubai: A female Kuwaiti artist whose paintings of male society were deemed “obscene” by authorities has vowed to continue pushing the boundaries. Her recent exhibition was shut down within three hours of opening. This was at a gallery in Kuwait on March 5.
Shurooq Amin spoke to Gulf News on the phone and said that she would keep on producing art that challenged perceptions of society in the Gulf.
The artist, who is in her 40s, introduces herself as a “conceptual interdisciplinary artist, who went a few years ago from being a ‘painter’ to an ‘artist’”.
The mother of four said: “That means my work stopped being introspective and became more ‘responsible’. I gravitated naturally towards exploring the world of women in the Arabian Gulf.”
Her work is a socio-political manifestation of what’s going on in the region. Shurooq has been painting for the past 20 years. Her first series ‘Society Girls’ was done in 2010. It was based on a rather blunt exploration of modern Arab Gulf society. The images did not attempt to demean or criticise they only intended to hold up a mirror to the lives of many Kuwaiti women - conveying the dichotomous influence of the West in an Eastern society.
A natural progression for the artist was to next show male society. This led to the series titled ‘It’s a Man’s World’, that debuted in March this year.
Shurooq said: “My series ‘It’s a Man’s World’ is a study of the secret and taboo world of men in the region. It explores how the paradoxes that envelope male society affect us on a bigger scale, and it exposes the underlying hypocrisy.”
It’s a Man’s World was exhibited on March 5 and was supposed to run for three weeks but was shut down by the local Kuwait authorities after three hours of opening.
She told Gulf News: “There is nothing pornographic or anti-Islamic: all the artworks are legal, albeit controversial. Isn’t it interesting that for centuries artists have been exposing women in all forms, yet when the table is turned, ‘men’ cannot handle it?”
Shurooq is driven by the support of the women in her life, especially her mother and her children.
The closure of the exhibition has sparked controversy, as it’s unprecedented in the art history of Kuwait to crack down on freedom of expression.
“The closure of my exhibition was illegal and illogical. It doesn’t affect only me; it is the beginning of the end to freedom of expression in Kuwait. It affects the entire community,” she said.
“The officials focused on two of my 16 works — a painting of a woman in a mini-dress sitting on a man’s lap entitled My Mistress and Family and a picture showing three men playing cards and drinking ‘grape juice’ from a bottle.
“Perhaps they tried to make an example out of me, but they never anticipated how it would backfire on them, with the entire world supporting me. It certainly woke up many sleeping lions,” Shurooq added.
The Kuwaiti government may have closed the exhibition but they have inspired the artist’s next exhibition.
“I will most definitely fight back with my next exhibition. Naturally, my next series will be an exploration of the issue of censorship in the region and its effects on freedom of expression. I don’t fight back with bare knuckles; I fight back with a ‘velvet glove”. The art itself will speak up for me next time, as it did this time.”