“Practice of Paradise”
With thanks to Nahla al-Ageli for these excerpts from her article, January 9th, 2015
“Libyan Canadian artist who is finding ways towards revelation using art, trusting to images more than to words. The work of Arwa Abouon is all the more powerful because she does not approach her subjects with pretentions to superior wisdom or a rigid value system. She uses what she perceives in her personal life as her vehicle to personal knowledge. Islam can be proud of her inspiring attitude of simple, pure devotion to honest enlightenment. Discovering truths which are in harmony both with the world around her and with the faith which she loves brings a contentment and joy which she can share with anyone.
“The 32-year-old has never shied away from publicly sharing her highly intimate search for identity and confronting the predicament of belonging to multiple worlds at once. In her pieces, she utilizes traditional religious and Libyan icons, symbols, and motifs to address the obvious paradoxes of living both as a proud Muslim woman from an Amazigh background and a strong Western person who quite happily fits into Montreal, speaking both fluent French and English alongside broken Arabic.
Relying on autobiographical material and often featuring her family, Abouon’s bold artistic statements are confessional creations that serve as both visual interpretations and expressions of an inner state of spiritual, psychological, and emotional longing for a certain release, peace, and balance in her outer surroundings, wherever she may be.
According to Abouon:
My work results from the dynamic interactions between my personal reflections on human nature, to meet and see the world as it is and the multiple perspectives of my own gaze… The themes I address stem directly from my life experience as a female artist living and working between cultures, and yet the aim is to show how a single person’s double vision can produce images that possess much wider social effects by collapsing the racial, cultural and religious borders.
With my work, I am also investigating mechanisms at play when having and acquiring knowledge and the different shapes that this knowledge takes on as it is transferred from one generation to another.
With regard to ‘Mirror Mirror,’ Abouon explained in an article published in Ahram Online:
I have composed a scenario where I attempt to exercise inner and outer spirituality equally – whether veiled or unveiled, what is most important is that I see myself through God; as one of his creations.
I can give the impression that I am perhaps commenting in a politicised way but in fact I do not intend to make political artworks because my knowledge in that realm is limited and I am not a good debater – I just think that religion has the power to heal an individual, true religious practice gives birth to moderate actions in all aspects of our lives and should create a more positive society member.”