Dubai-based French artist Isabelle Noor’s exhibition “Smile of a Woman around the World” conveys a message of love, peace and harmony between people and nations through her paintings of smiling women. Over the last two years Noor has been taking photographs of women in every country she travelled to, and researching the traditional costumes, crafts and other elements of their cultures. Her colourful, vibrant photo-paintings are based on these photographs, which show women from different countries, backgrounds and cultures, with the one common factor being their warm, radiant smiles.

“As an artist I want to create work that uplifts the human spirit and infuses our life with beauty. I started this project because I was shocked and shaken by the violence, terrorism, negativity and suspicion of others that we see all around us. I wanted to send a positive message and make a difference in the way people view each other, hence I chose to focus on a ‘smile’, which I believe is the most powerful way to communicate. It is a universal language that breaks down barriers between people, and speaks about kindness, love and working together for a peaceful world,” Noor says.

The artist has portrayed the women in their traditional national attire, and she has painted their costumes, jewellery and other accessories in vivid detail using gold and silver leaf gilding, and special techniques to create a three-dimensional look. She has also depicted the natural landscape of the country, and painted motifs from traditional textiles and crafts in the background to highlight the cultural heritage of the women. Her compositions also include cuttings from newspapers published in those countries.

“My paintings are a loving tribute to the beauty and resilience of women around the world, and a recognition of the fact that throughout history women have collaborated to construct the cultural heritage of humanity. These women represent our humanity, cultural treasures, heritage and history. I have emphasised the different cultural elements, and current news from the country these women belong to because I wanted each painting to be like a documentary. The title of each painting is chosen from the most common girls’ names in that country. Through these smiling faces I want to convey a message of compassion, hope and friendship between nations,” she says.

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

“Smile of a Woman around the World” will run at Cartoon Art Gallery, Al Quoz from November 12 to 17.