Latifah A Stranack & James Isaacs - 3D virtual exhibition by The Essential School of Painting

Latifah A Stranack & James Isaacs

Fri, 08/14/2020 to Sun, 01/31/2021

curated by:

Within my brush marks, relatives faces, rubbed marks and symbolic boats are often highlighted, repeated and reworked. In pursuit of a fleeting moment, I re contextualise and reframe the presence and absence of family members and belongings, my hazy memories kept close and eternally captured on canvas. Partially revealed, I attempt to collapse my present reality and bring the past to life, forever layered in washes of paint, helping me work through subconscious emotions and fears. My complex cultural identity is mulled upon frequently, through depictions of the sea- a sight of healing and trauma, Kanga cloth patterns and a full moon of hope. I search for a lost time, imagining my ancestors sailing alongside me on mysterious dhows, clay and coffee pots metaphors for family, and the colour blue symbolic to many ancient cultures, becomes my timeless symbol for life, rebirth, heaven and earth.

Born to parents from East and West, I have always been fascinated by cultural hybridity. When my father got cancer, I was sent to boarding school speaking basic English. They believed that by forbidding me to converse in Arabic, my assimilation into a proper English girl would be complete. This and other factors, caused me to become further isolated from my Middle Eastern identity, and in my work I try to grab hold of this struggle, depicting my paternal relatives and childhood in Oman, prior to my father’s death. Tales of his family are retold to me through my Welsh mother, and this has had a big impact in the way I make my art, and the subjects that I choose to deal with. Understanding the dynamics of exile and migration, is for me, a direct consequence of my upbringing, and I realise that my mixed heritage has been a rich source of material to work with, though at times it has also created numerous questions within me about my sense of belonging and place in the world.
“Identities work only because, once they get their grip on us, they command us, speaking to us as an inner voice; and because others, seeing who they think we are, call on us, too.”
– Kwame Anthony Appiah, The lies that bind, rethinking identity

Similar to Appiah, I am part of a complex web, a mixed heritage generation that continues to give birth to a never ending layered hybrid race. The work I am compelled to make, enables and empowers me to make sense of who I am, as my identity is contoured, labelled, shaped and redrawn by society

During lockdown, the feeling of being disconnected from the people in my life weighed heavy. Seeing their faces via Zoom or Skype was initially a blessing, but the RGB, computer-generated depictions of these people that I love told a terrible story of the actual distance between us. Bad internet, delay, lag, pixellation; they all took a little bit of that human connection away.

I wanted to try and inject some of that humanity back into their images so I took terrible screen shots of our chats and created a series of portraits in oil, rough and loose, each one created in under 3 hours to hopefully bring back some energy and character.

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