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Skull-deep beauty

October 28 - Novemver 3, 2020

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly Skull-deep beauty

Spooky sketcher of skulls Neda Ali Jahrami has unveiled her latest work – a re-imagination of famous paintings that gets under the skin of iconic muses – just in time to celebrate Halloween.

The Ghosts of Portraits Past series, thus far, takes a ghostly twist on famous paintings including Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 self-portrait.

“I have always been fascinated by the fact that we are all made out of skeletons, yet it is the ultimate symbol of horror,” Neda told GulfWeekly.

“Growing up, we associate skulls with something spooky and it’s used as a way to scare people, whether in art or décor, but personally, my attraction to skulls isn’t the horror factor at all.”

The 24-year-old Bahraini artist has always found her imagination drawn to darker motifs, from Tim Burton films and poems to horror books and video games. In particular, she is inspired by Tim’s poems and their accompanying drawings, finding that she is “very drawn to artwork that also has a story.”

Since childhood, she has been attracted to creative work of every ilk from sketching to crafting and storytelling.

“As I grew up I sketched regularly and used to imitate images of cartoon characters, but was hopeless in drawing anything realistic so I gave up,” she explained.

“Four years ago I decided to pick it up again for fun but to do it differently this time. That’s when I realised how much I loved painting and the beauty of making art that goes beyond trying to draw realistic portraits or objects.”

Taking inspiration from moulders of the macabre like Tim, Scott M Fischer, Placido Merino and Alexandros Pyromallis, she let her imagination run wild even bringing an added note of gritty darkness to childhood favourites, Disney.

In 2018, she reimagined the endings to popular Disney films and released the Cursed Princess series.

In Neda’s universe of ‘unhappily ever afters’, Snow White kills the hunter after starving for days, Ariel, The Little Mermaid, enjoys some seafood after taking over the sea kingdom, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is cursed with insomnia instead of blissful sleep and Belle from Beauty and the Beast kills her kidnapper.

“I loved re-writing my own ending to their stories that involves them finding their own strength, with a grim Tim Burton touch, instead of being rescued by a prince,” she added.

Neda’s work was first displayed at an art fair at the University of Bahrain, from where she later graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering.

“Architecture teaches you a lot of techniques and disciplines that aid in the creation of a drawing,” Neda explained. “My education helped me add more structure to my creativity.

“Architecture is an art form as well. My creativity helped me become a better architect and my architecture education helped me become a better artist.”

She has also had a solo exhibition at Sonder and has been part of two exhibitions at Malja art gallery, the “To Vincent” homage exhibition hosted by the Youth Innovation Centre and the Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB) art fair.

She has been involved in various art markets and conventions around the kingdom and worked on an art installation in the popular Block 338 in Adliya.

Of all her work, the piece she is most proud of is Voyage of Consciousness which depicts paintings of Bahraini landmarks on tree leaves, reflecting the transition of architecture in Bahrain and its place in the Bahraini identity.

When asked about her process, she said: “I am definitely a night-time creator. Generally, my mind tends to be at its most productive during the night, whether I’m working or making art. It also gives me time alone without any distractions.

“I try to dedicate some time for art, but most of the time I only work when inspiration strikes. Sometimes I go weeks or months without making anything, then suddenly get the urge to spend endless days or weeks continuously working on a project.

“During the pandemic, working from home has given me more time to work on my art. My productivity hasn’t been consistent, but I do feel like I have enough free time to dedicate to art.”

For details, follow @nedzzjah on Instagram.

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