Nasreen Shaikh Jamal al Lail
Nasreen Shaikh Jamal al Lail, a Saudi Arabian/British artist based out of the United Kingdom, is the founder and director of Variant Space, an art collective that facilitates a space for Muslim women to creatively express their experiences. Her mixed media, video, and photographic work are investigations into the connection between self-identity, individual experiences, and the physical space in which these conflicts exist. Having been raised partially in Saudi Arabia and now living as a Muslim in Britain, her personal experiences have shaped the way she perceives the fluidity and dynamism of cultural identities.
Of her series Abstract–a reflection on the hajj (the holy Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah)–Nasreen explains: "Pilgrimage is always a personal experience which involves intimate feelings of change. Clarity and overcoming are, in my personal experience, the most important part of any pilgrimage. The black dots covering my face represent impurity, a lack of clarity, and distress. As the pilgrimage progresses, these dots are quarterly removed, leaving the face to emerge from behind the original opaque image. The images serve as a representation of the intangible effects of pilgrimage and the physical movement through space alongside the spiritual movement of the self."
Nasreen's work incorporates both a subjective and objective point of view to tell stories of her complex self-identity and the concept of "flux" in a globalized world. Nasreen's art urges the viewer to reflect on how multi-faceted and fluid identity can be – subtly interlacing ideas of culture, gender, religion, and politics. The inherent alterity of her art promotes an understanding of those who exist in the confluence of our ever-shifting global society.Nasreen holds a bachelor's degree in Photography from the University of Westminster and a master's degree in Photographic Studies from the University of Westminster London. Her work has been exhibited in both Saudi Arabia and Britain, and her art has been published in Dazed Digital, Al Jazeera, Focus, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and more.