Hanging on my wall is a piece of artwork which I think perfectly sums-up my time of living in the Middle East. It was an unexpected gift that landed in my office one day after a short interaction on Instagram (reason no. 3284 why I love the Internet).
In an inquisitive context, the Arab world provides an almost ideal environment, one that is abound in mystery to be revealed. Women draped in layers of black fabric, money so abundant that it sometimes is hard to comprehend and a mysterious shroud over the ever-changing political landscape. But it almost makes for visually stimulating material in contrasting the old with the new, as in the case of the works of Marianne Petersen. A multi-media artist with a particular interest in the culture of the Gulf, MarpLondon as she prefers to be known, has cleverly condensed her social observations on Arabs in frame-size pop art and photographs. Images of veiled women hidden in the latest designer shoes form the series The Great Harrods Exodus — Petersen’s layered response to the debate of the banning of full-face veils in England. “The assumptions from both Muslims and non-Muslims are as ignorant as the other and I wanted to highlight the paradoxes,” she says.
In A Taste of Dubai, Petersen highlights the ordinary man on the street by taking away the usual glitz and skyscrapers associated with the Emirate — reframing the individuals in plain backgrounds of traditional Arab environment. These quirky and highly circumspect works
caught the eye of Khurram Rafique, owner of UAE-based shoe and handbag brand Nicoli, and Petersen was asked to collaborate in designing the label’s 2014 campaign. “With a mix of old Hollywood icons and new icons of the East, the campaign is a play on the mind to create your own inner style,” she explains. Selected MarpLondon pieces are available through Saatchi Art online but the artist prefers to be in touch with clients personally on www.marplondon.com