Lana Al-Shami

Covid-19 has put our lives in limbo. This piece represents my personal experience during lockdown and as restrictions get eased, getting back to a ‘new normal’ way of life. Images have been collated to record how her time has been spent during this period, which includes screen shots from Zoom meetings, online quizzes and workouts to photos of rainbows of hope taken during daily walks, experimental cooked meals, receipts of essential purchases as well as signs and notices regarding Coronavirus. These images have been cut into strips and woven together onto a plaster cast of a female torso. Since lockdown began, time and memory seem to have lost all meaning. The extracts of the images intertwined with each other, at times blurred, represent the distorted passage of time over this period and the confusion experienced, as well as the small positives amongst the darkness of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Lana Al-Shami

I am a creative and enthusiastic Artist, Architect and Designer based in Oxford with an interest in working with recycled and reclaimed materials in order to create unique pieces of art.
Following four years as working as an Architect, I enhanced my creative potential by undertaking a Diploma in Art and Design course in 2009. During the course I developed new skills and had the opportunity to explore more personal themes in art, developing my ideas by experimenting in a range of media and scale.

Of Iraqi parentage, yet born and brought up in the UK, I have always felt connected to both the British and Arab culture. The notion of cultural identity is an underlying theme in many of my works of art, expressing a sense of belonging in a disjointed society and inhabiting tensions of dual disjuncture linked to both Arab and Western cultural identities. The Arabic script features frequently in many of my works as it forms an underlying part of my cultural inheritance.

I have participated in exhibitions in the UK and abroad. These have included the ‘Inspired by…’ exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Istanbul Trienali, Istanbul, Turkey.

In addition, I enjoy entering design competitions and have won a few including ‘A Cup of Inspiration’, a design competition held by Oxford City Council for Oxford’s new coffee cup recycling bins.

  • Skin is the largest organ of our body, a barrier between the inside and outside environment. It is also considered as a sensory organ of touch and as a delicate threshold between life and death. Inspired by the qualities of skin, this figure represents a delicate protective shell and the vulnerability felt by the artist. It is created using a variety of synthetic and natural materials, whose seamless organic appearance and flexibility imitate the qualities of skin.
  • The inspiration for this piece was from a title of a series by an Iraqi born artist, Ayad Alkadhi. The series explores the fact that despite feeling assimilated to the Western culture, Alkadhi still feels that part of his identity is associated to his Arab cultural upbringing. He states: “Immigrants are pulled threads, drawn from their motherland fabric and sewn onto the material life of our new homelands. We exist in a state of cultural purgatory, a state of not belonging. Or maybe we’re split, belonging a little to both places. While we are woven into the whole, we yet stand out. We are bold lines of yarn stitched into the fabric of our adopted culture, in hopes of maybe belonging again one day” Ayad Alkadhi This vivid description is very coherent in regards to expressing the state of belonging to two or more cultures. It isn’t about defining a ‘third space’ but looking deeper into what makes a person and acknowledging their vulnerability and fragile state. Whilst trying to integrate or ‘weave’ ourselves into a new culture, our ties to our homelands can not be cut as they remain part of us. I was so inspired by this quotation that I decided to use it as the basis for this piece. Alkadhi used mixed media, thread and fabric on canvas in his work. I decided to take this further and create a torso entirely from yarn in order to fully capture the delicate and fragile state of people.
  • This piece aims to look at scripts in a different light, to not view them as a means of communication but as a form of art. The piece takes a form of a book comprising of pages exploring different scripts. Each page is comprised of a sheet of Arabic text, intricately woven with another script. The effect is a juxtaposition of written scripts, in turn making the texts no longer legible but instead creating a series of patterns and forms.
  • This piece explores the notion of belonging to more than one place and inhabiting tensions of dual disjuncture linked to being assimilated with both the Arab and Western cultures. The piece incorporate lines from a poem entitled ‘My Identity’ by Yisel Chong. Lines from this poem, both in Arabic and English, have been woven together to represent the confusion of being surrounded simultaneously by two different cultures and the prejudices and stereotypes that come with it.
  • The fingerprint is a universal symbol of identity. The combination of ridges and gaps are unique to every individual. I wanted to examine the deeply personal attributes associated with this form by creating a series of prints that illustrate her interpretation of identity. Due to the size of the prints, at first glance the form appears to be made of a series of dashes, replicating that of a fingerprint. It is only on closer inspection that one can see that there is more to them than meets the eye. The prints in actual fact comprise a piece of personal text written in Arabic relating to my identity, whose lines take the form of my individual fingerprint.

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