"The Realm of Conscience" Explained
When I was in high school, I took a class for two years called “Higher Level IB Art”. I was required to create a portfolio of 20 artworks following a certain theme, and ended up choosing Muslim women as my subject (all of these artworks can be found in the illustrations page of this website). Each artwork took its own time and thoughtful consideration, although I must say that some took more time and effort than others.
When I graduated high school, I continued creating artworks in this theme, exploring deeper and deeper with each new creation. About a month ago, I finished my largest painting in this collection and titled it "The Realm of Conscience". This particular painting by far represents me the most as an artist. It is, essentially, an exploration into the realm of my conscience, and I find it only appropriate to explain the details I've included that portray this theme.
The setting touches upon 3 elements of physical space: the galaxy, the desert, and the buildings in the background. The galaxy represents the vastness and potential of the human mind whereas the desert touches upon my roots, for that is where I am from. On the other hand, the buildings represent modern human civilization; a juxtaposition to the timelessness of the desert. The tree growing in the middle of the desert is a mercy and source of life, but it comes at a price. Money may not grow on trees (in the real world at least), but sometimes we are prone to thinking that this money we chase is just as valuable as the oxygen we breathe.
There is an open cage hanging from the tree, with multiple paper cranes flying out of it. The paper cranes are flying towards freedom, but I can't help but think that the idea of freedom is just as fragile as the paper they are made of. These past few years of my life have been a testament to this.
By the tree, there is an hourglass, a reference to time. As Game of Thrones (the greatest show ever) says, "Valar Morghulis- All Men Must Die". It is an unshakeable truth. One of my biggest fears is not accomplishing great things before I die. I feel that it is expected of me. I am told that I have potential to do these great things, but I don't know what they are, nor how to accomplish them. All I hear is the clock ticking and the rising voices of doubt and fear telling me I am not enough. My true biggest fear, however, is not spending my time in this world pleasing God. Committing sin after sin, and never redeeming myself to be worthy of His mercy. Not too far from the hourglass lies a ship. In Islam, we are taught that our true destination is in the afterlife. Similarly to how the ship does not belong to the desert sand, we do not belong to this material world. There is a displacement between where we are and where we are meant to be. Our prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) once taught us that we are meant to live our lives as travelers. In hindsight, perhaps it is by knowing that we do not belong here that motivates us to get to the place we do belong to.
And now we arrive to the main subject of this painting, the Muslim girl. She is emerging from the desert, her roots, and heading on a journey. She is removing herself from the materialistic world and pursing freedom through spiritual enlightenment. Resolute in her mindset, she will find knowledge and leave behind ignorance. There is an Arabic quote written on her head that translates to "I suffered, I learned, I changed". The second quote wraps from her head to across her chest, and I believe that it is quite fitting for my youthful existentialistic crisis. From when I was a girl, I wanted to be so many things when I got older. I wanted to be a SeaWorld trainer, a vet, a biologist, an explorer, a pilot, an Olympian. Each time, I was told to be more realistic or to think of other things. Now I am older and I internally curse myself for listening. Thus, the following quote resonates deeply within me. It says "Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?"
Overall, this painting incorporates themes that make up the very fabric of my identity. My fears, my truths, and my hopes. Whether their experiences are the same or not, I hope that when people look at this painting, they can find it relatable in some way, and perhaps be moved to a higher level of self-awareness. That is my purpose as an artist.