Gallery Girl Meets Ghadah Alkandari

Ghadah Alkandari (also known by her blog name Pretty Green Bullet) paints beguiling, ethereal characters on canvas, fabric and herself. Multicoloured and multifaceted, her images of women with big eyes and fragmented faces, draw people in, asking them to figure out the stories concealed behind their locked lips. Often constructed as large-scale artworks, Ghadah then photographs herself in front of them, painting her own limbs too, so that she becomes an extension of the artwork. Gallery Girl spoke to Ghadah about the birth of Pretty Green Bullet, her inspirations and fabric. 

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Ghadah and her polyhedrons, photograped by Thilo Meyer. Image courtesy Ghadah Alkandari

Ghadah started her blog in 2006 and came up with the catchy Pretty Green Bullet with the help of a friend. “I had done a stop motion animation of one of my characters dodging green Fischer plugs”, she explains, “I called the film ‘Ina and the Green Bullets.’ I liked Green Bullet as a blog name, but it felt too masculine and a syllable or two too short, so I added the ‘Pretty.’” This mix of the feminine and masculine is something that you could attribute to all of Ghadah’s characters, who are undeniably beautiful, but who also have a statuesque, powerful strength about them. “The women are an amalgamation of the various people I love or who influence my everyday life”, explains Ghadah, adding, “Although they are women, some possess a more masculine spirit. From my perspective, these are the women who protect me when I need them, or who I delight in giving character and personality to.”

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Eve and Her Planets, acrylic on canvas, 2018, 100 x 80 cm. Image courtesy Ghadah Alkandari

Yet, though the women in Ghadah’s paintings are undeniably the focal point of her art, Ghadah herself often completes the picture. “A lot of people who see my work see me in the paintings”, she says, “And I can’t argue with that.” Probably the main reason why people think this, is because of the way Ghadah presents these images online, photographing herself in front of the paintings, wrapping herself in similar fabrics, and painting her arms and legs in the same patterns as her characters. “I’ve always loved fabric”, explains Ghadah, “I wanted to be a fashion designer growing up, but for personal reasons I couldn’t. Add to that the fact that when I get frustrated with a painting I tend to move on to my arms or legs, just to loosen myself up. And that inspired the idea to merge the two. Since then I’ve been having a great time with it! It’s also a good way to get other people in on the fun!”

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Ghadah with body paint. Image courtesy Ghadah Alkandari

Ghadah tends to work mainly with acrylic, pen and ink, but also works with other mediums. “I started drawing ever since I could hold a pencil”, explains Ghadah, “It’s been an intrinsic part of my life, to the point that I don’t distinguish my work from my life. They go hand in hand; one feeds the other.” As for her influences, she is inspired when she can feel the warmth another artist felt when making their work. “I think the tacit joy that’s derived from creating a work of art is transferable to the viewer, whether they are aware of it or not” she explains, adding, “I’m also urged to paint when I am going through emotional strife, or when I’m feeling insecure or my self-esteem’s been shot. It’s a very empowering feeling to design and form a tableau that only you are capable of creating.”

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‘Secretary’ exhibition at the Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2014). Image courtesy Ghadah Alkandari

Right now, Ghadah is preparing for an exhibition that is tentatively called Skin opening at the Sultan Gallery in Kuwait in March. “I play around with the idea of how we cover our bodies and find loopholes in our religion-influenced societal rules”, says Ghadah about the show, “How we come up with creative ways to appear bare while ‘being covered’.” Something that also goes back to Ghadah’s painting on her body. “I’m not very comfortable showing too much skin on social media”, she adds, “But once I add the paint, I don’t feel so exposed anymore and I immediately feel more confident showing, say, my thighs in a very public forum. It’s bizarre to me that one layer of paint will have that effect.”

As for the future? “I’d love to exhibit in Beirut or Cairo. This has been a dream of mine for years and years, so I really should get to it!”, says Ghadah, adding, “I’d also love to own a little house with a decent sized garden.”

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

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