PODCAST: Gallery Girl Meets Zahra Marwan

Sometimes I take my deepest sentiments and try to represent them in a light way. 

– Zahra Marwan

In this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast, we’re joined by Zahra Marwan, a Kuwaiti artist who grew up between two very different deserts: Kuwait and New Mexico. 

Zahra Marwan

“I thought my upbringing was pretty normal, until I grew up and realised not many people grow up between two different cultures”, says Zahra, “Not a lot of Kuwaiti people live in New Mexico.” And, after living between desserts, she decided to study in Paris and then in Lyon. 

Illuminating by Zahra Marwan

Growing up, Zahra had an uncle who was a painter, with much of Zahra’s work centring around family stories and story-telling. “I suppose there are a lot of family stories to feel more grounded”, says Zahra, though she is inspired by day-to-day conversations, especially those she cares about.

Grandma’s Cigarettes by Zahra Marwan

Zahra has just put the finishing touches on a book tentatively called Home, about not wanting to leave Kuwait as a child and moving to New Mexico. “It contradicts the regular immigrant experience”, she explains, “I was very welcomed here.”

Locusts by Zahra Marwan

One thing that is special about Zahra’s work, is its endearing and childlike quality. “There’s a certain light-hearted feeling in watercolour”, she says, “The people are very simple, they always have triangle noses and dot eyes.” And speaking of watercolour, Zahra likes the medium because she can add layers.

Night Unravelling by Zahra Marwan

During lockdown, Zahra’s been drawing from home. Speaking of the work she produced during this time, Zahra says that it has become more focused on memory as opposed to things she’s been seeing. 

Pasteq Nap by Zahra Marwan

In the future, she is hopefully having an exhibition in Florence next April, as well as making some work for a hot air balloon festival in New Mexico. Zahra also hopes to create more picture books.

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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