This article was originally published on The Arab Review.
Even from the outside, I know immediately which apartment belongs to Zena: the open door framed by a cascade of pink lights, the scent of cardamom-laced coffee wafting invitingly down the staircase.
Beirut-based artist and writer Zena el Khalil tells me she likes to use pink in her work, despite hating it as a colour, because “it defines our generation of materialistic culture.” This “broken red”, as she likes to call it, is “quick, shallow and superficial: like cotton candy.” And so she has reappropriated this symbol of contemporary society and made it her own; all the better to critique it.
This sort of cultural subversion is typical of el Khalil’s work, which is strongly tied to popular culture through its use of mainstream iconography. Part of the reason for this, she tells me, is that she feels that “art is very elitist”, and so that by connecting her art to the everyday world around her, she is making it more accessible to the ordinary citizen.
Image courtesy of Gigi Roccati.