By Sara Elkamel
In her latest collection, Cairo-based artist Souad Mardam Bey meditates on contemporary socio-political life. Through a series of large-scale portraits, where the subjects’ eyes are covered in large sunglasses that
obstruct their vision in some canvases, their bodies covered in multiple layers of clothing in others,
the artist tackles pop culture and captures the uncertainty pervading everyday life in the Middle East.
Born in Damascus, Syria, Souad Mardam Bey first came to Cairo in 2000 after living in Beirut for many years, and enchanted by its enormity and vivaciousness, decided to stay. The artist is a fan of cosmopolitan cities, where cultures, ideas, and faces converge.
Throughout her career, Mardam Bey has developed a visual language that is reminiscent of a daydream. By producing large-scale, enchantingly textured paintings with subjects that stare one into submission, the artist is able to pull you into an alternate world.
But while painting this collection, the artist could not escape the daunting reality of life surrounding her, where contradiction, in politics, culture, and wardrobe, pervades the street. The result is a mostly monochromatic series that depicts the frenzied scenes she witnesses everyday, where people create their own illogical lifestyles, demonstrating a clash of modern and conservative influences.