Alymamah Rashed is a self-proclaimed cyborg. While this word usually conjures images of robots and mechanical body parts, the 29-year-old Kuwaiti visual artist does not use it in reference to artificial intelligence. To her, this cyborg is a spiritual avatar containing multiple bodies: Rashed’s physical form, and one that dons a thobe. When these two existences unite, the Muslima Cyborg is born. Or more accurately, she is liberated – unobstructed by any conventional ideas of reason or humanity so that Rashed can capture her emergence on canvas. The only rule governing this artistic practice is that, simply put, there are no rules at all. “You are able to enter my work through the story of my body and you’re able to enter into my work through your own gaze. I want to constantly establish a linkage between faith and art through self-perception and self-analysis,” Rashed says. She’s inspired by artists who rearrange spaces, experiences, or memories through the “fragmenting, stretching, or isolating of the body,” and last month marked the end of her two-part solo exhibition in the UAE. The title for each chapter was taken from a single sentence Rashed had split in half so that the first part, “When My Heart Danced Near Your Mirage” appeared at Tabari Artspace in Dubai, and the second, “A Hundred Flowers Sang Back to Us” featured at Abu Dhabi Art.
In the same way the exhibit lived between two emirates, Rashed’s paintings straddle two worlds. Her embrace of both the natural and supernatural has led to her artistic style being described as surrealist, which Rashed says is a fair characterization. “I have particularly gravitated towards the Arab Surrealist Movement, which was founded in Cairo by [poet and theorist] Georges Henein. The movement converged visual fragmentations, writing manifestos, and social protest. Ramses Younan’s paintings are connected with an ongoing investigation of the body and to my own attempt to ‘bodify’ the soul through disorienting its borders,” Rashed explains. She also cites the influence of Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine who, though she did not self-identify as being part of a particular art genre, painted peculiar figures imbued with bold hues that have been classified as surrealist.
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