Emery Prize winner Nour Jaouda explores the thresholds and liminalities of being a multi-cultural female artist in her Pembroke Art Gallery exhibition ‘Between the Borderlines’
Jaouda’s waxy, tarpaulin-like canvas is used as a background for hand embroidery in the finest lines, creating fleeting silhouettes and outlines of city scenes. Reminiscent of Tracey Emin’s use of invective language in her embroidery work or perhaps even Judy Chicago’s ‘Dinner Party’, the rough material, together with a skill traditionally associated with women’s craft rather than fine art, poses the question of the role of women within the art world. Here, embroidery demands to be perceived as an art form, its bright orange and red lines suggestive of construction workers and city life set against the muted, earthly colour palette of browns and ochres.
Examining the boundary between art and craft, the ceramics which lie at the base of the frames are reminiscent of the artist’s Libyan and Egyptian cultural identity and emulate a bustling market and every-day living. Transforming a historically-perceived delicate female discipline, the ceramics become, quite literally, the base of Jaouda’s installation. Juxtaposition and paradox of this kind permeates the entirety of ‘Between the Borderlines’.
The immersive nature of the installation is made possible through the artist’s use of negative space, allowing predominantly two-dimensional tapestries to come to life through their interaction with the gallery space itself. The silhouettes become like the shadows of passers-by through Jaouda’s manipulation of light and cut canvases. The shirt-collared holes that stand out in relief which appear throughout the work inject into the audience a sense of voyeurism, giving the impression of being drawn into different aspects of the artist’s identity.
Yet, both Jaouda’s figures and animals remain anonymous, dehumanised; their stencilled profiles refusing to engage with the viewer. The washes of red acrylic and the embroidered meat hooks then take on another identity as symbols of violence, and the hung canvas and shirt buttons suddenly create room scattered with images of death, reinforced by the title ‘Hanging by the butcher’s hooks’.
Jaouda’s oscillation between past and present, tradition and innovation, is omnipresent, allowing her intimate, almost self-portrait-like installation to break down the “borderlines” of what it means to be a woman, a migrant, and an artist.