PODCAST: Gallery Girl Meets Ghadah Alkandari

On this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast I am joined by Ghadah Alkandari, an artist living and working in Kuwait. Her work includes paintings in acrylics as well as intimate pen and ink drawings, and you may also know her from her blog Pretty Green Bullet.

“I picked up a pencil at two. It was part of my daily ritual and how I coped with things”, says Ghada about her art, “It was how I broke the ice with people, how I communicated…it really was what gave me confidence as a person. I was so painfully shy, but when it came to my art that was when I flourished.” Her father was a diplomat who loved showing her art off to his friends, and her parents were supportive of art as a hobby. That said, Ghada went on to study mass communications at the American University in Cairo. But, despite that, art was always her main thing. “There was never a time when I stopped or when it was in the background”, she says, “Every single day. It’s a part of who I am.”

Not happy with just showing her work in exhibitions, Ghada started her blog Pretty Green Bullet in 2008, which she says is a more comprehensive look at her work. The name was inspired by a stop-motion animation she made out of cut-outs where the figure was dodging what looks like bullets. “I thought, what about green bullet? But I like things in threes…I like the word pretty, it just came so fast”, explains Ghada of the blog name. She went on to have Pretty Green Bullet exhibitions as opposed to Ghadah Alkandari shows. “It was more like a three day party as opposed to an exhibition”, she says, “Pretty Green Bullet became almost like a brand.” 

One thing you’ll notice in Ghadah’s work, are the striking female characters within them. “I was an only girl, I had three brothers”, she explains, “The narrative was they’re all girls, they’re all sisters…that was a big thing for me and then when I was 17 my mom gave birth to a girl and I finally got my sister, but I stuck with the women.” The works are full of feminine energy, an expression of who Ghada is. “I’m a woman so I project my feelings onto the canvases and I project them through these women”, she says, “In 2013 as a joke I called her Eve. In Kuwaiti socialite magazines it’s quite a pejorative term to call women حواء which means Eve and so I kind of took that and I called all the women in this one exhibition Eve.” And, people keep calling her Eve.

But besides painting women, Ghadah also paints on her own skin. “When i’m really upset I start painting on myself”, she explains, “When I feel like the canvas won’t do.” She does this with acrylic paint, which flattens on the skin. The resulting images she takes are quite striking and actually Ghadah’s selfies could almost be called a work of art in themselves, where she presents herself beautifully immersed in her artwork. “I’ve always loved being photographed”, says Ghadah, “It’s almost a performance but a still performance behind the camera.”

When we record, both Ghadah and I have been in lockdown because of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Ghadah spent this time drawing. “Anything I do is me trying to cope or distract myself from something”, she says and as for the future, she just wants to be able to hug and touch the people she loves. 

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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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