Through her playful photographs and graphic interventions, Arwa Abouon questions her own place within a so-called Western culture on the one hand and her upbringing in a Muslim household on the other. Arwa investigates mechanisms at play when learning and acquiring knowledge, and the different shapes that this knowledge takes on as it is transferred from one generation to another. Balancing playful humor, irreverent re-appropriation and respectful homage, Arwa’s work is always visually impactful and intricate in the subtleties within its voices. Working predominantly in photography, the artist spans a wide array of media, such as video, illustration, graphics on light boxes as well as the occasional site-specific installation.
“My work results from dynamic interactions between personal reflections on human nature, an attempt to meet and see the world as it is, and the multiple perspectives of my own gaze. The attempts to visually translate these specific configurations of subject, time, and place, are usually photographic, but also sometimes integrate video, design or additional installations.
The themes addressed in my works 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 persons’ ‘double vision’ can produce images that possess much wider social and political effects by collapsing racial, cultural and religious borders. In other words, the images which are seemingly autobiographical in nature move beyond mere autobiography. Like the state of biculturalism itself, they unpack the categories of ‘East’ and ‘West,’ merging them and hence underscoring their similarities rather than differences.
I am investigating mechanisms at play when learning and acquiring knowledge, and the different shapes that this knowledge takes on as it is transferred from one generation to another. Balancing playful humor, re-appropriation and respectful homage, I hope my work is always visually intricate in the subtleties within its voices.” – Arwa Abouon
Since earning a BFA in Design Art and Photography at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, Arwa has been featured in several group exhibitions across the world. Her recent solo exhibitions include Honolulu, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2015); Learning by Heart, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2012). She has taken part in numerous group exhibitions internationally including Presence: Reflections on the Middle East, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Center for Visual Art, CO, USA (2017); Islamic Arts Festival, Sharjah Art Museum, UAE (2014); A Libyan Lamma, Noon-Arts, Malta (2014); The Salon, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2013); Cross-border, ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany (2013); Twenty-five years of Arab Creativity, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France (2012); and Reorientations II (Suwar): Pictorial Representations in the Arab World, Rose Issa Projects, London, UK (2012).
Her work is part of The Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, and The Stanly Mills collections.
Arwa lives and works in Montreal, Canada.