Artist: Rasha Eleyan
Greetings from “circuit breaker” central Addictees!
Lockdown in Singapore was recently extended to 1 June. Luckily for us, we are surrounded by marvellous art and get to chat to our incredible artists (and sometimes ourselves) regularly, exchanging tales of newfound skillz in the time of COVID-19 and whether or not we suddenly decided to give ourselves DIY haircuts. You know, all the important stuff.
Currently on our speed dial is the cool and fabulous Palestinian artist, Rasha Eleyan. New(ish) to Addicted (you may recall her Peranakan prints), Rasha is in the process of gathering elements and ideas for her new body of work - a political pop art series focusing on women in occupied Palestine. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, we are pleased to present to you a selection of Rasha’s work which explores various topics centred around the Middle East (except for That Little Mouse and My Lucky Dragon). Before we jump into the artwork, here’s a little bit about Rasha:
Rasha was born in Dubai to Palestinian parents.
From an early childhood, Rasha was mentored by her father, the great Palestinian artist Nasr Abdelaziz Eleyan in the art of drawing and oil painting.
She went on to graduate with a BA in Fine Arts from the Yarmouk University in Jordan, and advanced painting and nude drawing from the Libera Accademia Di Belle Arti of Rome.
Rasha’s artistic career began as an illustrator for children’s storybooks at just 18 years of age. She later became an associate producer at Walt Disney.
After having a very successful career as an illustrator and television producer, Rasha, who is now based in Singapore, is now solely focussed on her art and combines her classical style with her love of cartoons to create a truly unique style.
“I’m born to refugees. I come from a place without bright colours or hope. So I was drawn to material that my father had laying around, like the movie Fantasia. Disney became a part of my life. I began to copy the drawings in these animation books that my father had, and I became a good cartoonist. But it was Roger Rabbit that affected me. I became obsessed with the play between humans and cartoon characters, and you can now see that in my work. I combine cartoon or pop art with the hyperreal.”
- Rasha Eleyan
If you’d like to learn more about Rasha, click here.
The Occupation of Rasha Eleyan
"The Gardens of Death", Acrylic on canvas, 2011
Arty-Fact: "From a shockingly inappropriate young age, I was exposed to the idea of torture. I can confidently say that for a child with my vivid imagination it was, and remains to be my single scariest haunting thought until this day.
"Overhearing adults recalling stories of torture in the Arab world from the 60s, 70s and, 80s, and hearing and seeing torture scenes in films like "Kitkat" (which sadly remains one of my absolute favourite movies), I suffered high anxiety as a child of 7 or 8 years old from these thoughts. So, when the Arab Spring unleashed a wave of torture and abuse as authoritarian regimes clamped down to cling to power, that fear once again surfaced and, I became obsessed with the idea of torture.
"While alone in my studio in Singapore, I listened to online radio reporting the events from the Middle East. I would make notes and research techniques such as "The Flying Carpet" and "The German Chair" - techniques used against the brave protestors in a renewed absolute horror." – Rasha Eleyan
"Mind the Gap (The Gold Hotel)", Acrylic and oil on canvas, 2011
Arty-Fact: "This painting was created with a specific country in mind at the time. Sadly, it applies widely to too many parts of our world today. The widening income gap between the world's richest and poorest is the reason for great concern as globalised capitalism is resulting in countries turning into police states to protect its rich. In contrast, its poor are likely to suffer unfair social and financial inequality and, at times, even unfair prosecution." – Rasha Eleyan
"Summer Fruit", Acrylic and oil on canvas, 2011
Arty-Fact: "Following the initial euphoria that accompanied the wave of uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011, and after the excitement of our newly found voice subsided and was replaced by a sense of loss and confusion, I decided to go back to the Middle East to see my family. I hoped to get a clearer understanding of the current events accompanying the uprising - but that was naive and ambitious. Long conversations around shisha and summer fruit left me feeling more restless and resulted in my painting Summer Fruit." - Rasha Eleyan
"195th Member (Zaghrouta)", Acrylic on canvas, 2012
Arty-Fact: "My 195th Member (Zaghrouta) depicts a memory from my childhood in Dubai. My father, the painter Nasr Abel Aziz Eleyan, who at the time worked as a creative director for Dubai television, had set up a small working studio in our home where he spent the majority of his time. It was in this studio where he would create paintings depicting the traditional Palestinian way of life.
"His paintings captured beautiful women with long, dark hair, wearing Palestinian Thobe (traditional dress) carrying out tasks from daily rural life, with a pensive, distant look on their face – as if suspended in time in quiet mourning." – Rasha Eleyan
"The Emperor's New Clothes", Acrylic and oil on canvas, 2012
Arty-Fact: "Putting aside Col Gaddafi's evil dictatorship, I can't help but be fascinated by the leader who paraded on the world stage. With style so unique and unpredictable it made him as eccentric (if not even more so) than any rockstar or artist such as Picasso or Marcel Duchamp.
"Col Gaddafi stood out not only with his outlandish clothing, but also his blunt speeches and unconventional behaviour, all while surrounded by his well-dressed and highly specialised (in the use of firearms and martial arts) legendary all-female guard force." – Rasha Eleyan
"My Lucky Dragon", Acrylic on canvas, 2014
Arty-Fact: "I have been lucky. Aside from being an artist, the only full-time job I ever had was with the only company I ever wanted to work with – The Walt Disney Company. I was offered a job in 2001 in Singapore with the Company. During my first Lunar New Year, I was baffled when my boss walked over to me with a tangerine in each hand and presented me with the fruit.
"I later learned the symbolism behind the gesture and now celebrate its meaning with My Lucky Dragon." – Rasha Eleyan
"That Little Mouse", Acrylic on canvas, 2014
Arty-Fact: "That Little Mouse is the result of my participation in a Ganesha in Fine Art exhibition in Singapore in 2014.
"To celebrate Ganesha, I didn't want to paint the first thing that came to mind, so I decided to read about him, and I became almost immediately obsessed with Ganesha's mouse. The wandering mouse represents the wavering human mind. The mouse lays temptation in the form of mangoes at Ganesha's feet and whispers words in his ear. The mouse reminds me of what my mother would often ask me: "What did your mind tell you to do?"
"I think many people would playfully relate to the idea that the little whispering mouse made them do it." – Rasha Eleyan
"Cairo (Tea With The Lady)", Acrylic on canvas, 2016
Arty-Fact: "Following my Arab Spring and the Cradle of Civilization exhibition, I decided to create less politically charged paintings.
"Unfortunately, I realised my plan to do so had failed when I added an eye patch to the Egyptian citizen in this work. This painting was supposed to be non-political. Instead, it now pays homage to the men and women who were brave enough to keep protesting in Tahrir Square and, subsequently, would lose an eye to rubber bullets by snipers. Today, I am reminded that we can't escape our reality as the brave men and women in Sudan are targeted and oppressed in the same recent history that keeps repeating itself in the Middle East." – Rasha Eleyan
"Dubai (The Pearl of the Gulf)", Acrylic on canvas, 2016
Arty-Fact: "In my Middle East collection of paintings, I wanted to capture cities that are close to my heart, so I started with Dubai, where I was born and lived the first 18 years of my life. When I think of Dubai, I am mostly fascinated by the loyalty to its traditions. The way Emirati women elevated the Shayla scarf and the over-garment, robe-like Abaya—accessorised with high-end luxury-branded over-sized sunglasses, significant heels, and big bouffant hair partly hidden by the Shayla.
"Since painting this a few years ago, I have been asked repeatedly about my idea behind the veiled woman, and unfortunately more than once, I was asked if it was about the oppression of women in the Middle East - which is an upsetting stereotype. National dress is a matter of deep-rooted pride for Emiratis. They elevate and make it luxurious and contemporary while remaining immediately recognisable for what it is, so it's a cool inspiration for me to paint." – Rasha Eleyan
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you'd like additional information about Rasha's works. Don't forget; you can try before you buy any of our pieces by using our App, See It On Your Wall.
Until the next one, tilting our heads so our haircuts look straight...
Blair & El xoxo