Reclaiming the body through painting

artist in profile

  • Arts
Harem Girls and Belly Dancers is a series of paintings that asks questions about issues of gender
Image supplied by: Supplied
Harem Girls and Belly Dancers is a series of paintings that asks questions about issues of gender

Who are you?

Pansee Atta, a local artist that’s responsible for the murals in Mac-Corry and West Campus, as well as other locations in and out of Queen’s.

What do you do?

I paint. Sometimes I do other things related to painting, like teaching, running my muraling business, writing about art, applying for grants, and, if I’m lucky, eating, breathing, and sleeping … but mostly, I’m painting.

Where can someone find you?

In a small, dusty cafe, hidden behind my sketchbook and a large mug of coffee, scribbling ideas for my latest project.

Where do you live and why?

I live in a transitional sort of space between Egypt, where I’m originally from, Ajax, where my family lives, large Canadian cities, where I get my sense of humility, and Kingston, where I get work done. I think that sense of being in-between spaces can be seen in a lot of my work.

What inspires you?

Easy question. It has to be the female body. The way we view ourselves is shaped from the images we see, that’s where art gets it power. My aim is to create images of women that represent those ideals, and the psychologies that come with them. Sometimes those ideals are flawed, and I show that honestly. But sometimes they’re kickass, punk-rock, with an I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude that cuts through the stifling academia comes with making art about gender, ethnicity and culture.

How would you describe your art?

It’s a delicious visual stew made of ingredients that you wouldn’t think work together, but have been simmering on the stove that is my brain for so long, they’ve somehow combined to create something beautiful.

What’s the nicest thing someone has said about your work?

Being told that my work has raised someone’s awareness about an issue, or made them think differently. I’m most proud of my Kuffiyeh Kinderlach series for that reason.

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your work?

Evoking a non-reaction is the worst, far worse that getting a strongly negative opinion.

What are your current obsessions?

Belly dancing. Sure it’s a Western construct that’s been exploitatively hoisted onto Arab women their oppressive colonizers … but by taking it back, reclaiming it and making it your own, it becomes a medium of authentic self-expression.

When someone says “Kingston” you think…

Joining clubs and student groups, meeting new people, and making friends in those groups. Kingston has some great opportunities for connection and inspiration, but you have to seek out the people that inspire you.

What are you currently working on?

My latest paintings are a combination of all these influences­—bodily and cultural anxieties expressed alongside big, bold, images that make ambitious suggestions about what people can be. Some are at The Artel right now, but the rest will be at the Union Gallery in October.

­—Emily Whalen

Pansee Atta’s show Harem Girls and Belly Dancers is on at the Artel until Oct. 10.

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