MH Sarkis - An Evening in Kensington
Early in April, artist MH Sarkis hosted a delightful soirée to showcase her latest portfolio and to engage in conversation in an informal setting at the Kensington campus of the Richmond American International University. It was here that MH excelled in her studies in Creative Arts and Communications with Art History.
Since coming across MH’s artwork at the Art Rooms exhibition at the Meliá White House Hotel in January, the artist has become a firm favourite of Connected Cultures. My enthusiasm for her art must have shown, since I was fortunate to be among a select group of guests at Richmond comprising academics, fellow artists, art admirers and friends.
MH Sarkis with Eddie Hewitt
For this event, MH displayed a series of captivating additions to her distinctive collection of studies of the human form. Five paintings from this series were on view, with titles including The Embrace, The Big Reveal, and the intriguing We have no choice but to carry the Nation in our belly - aka The 55th State. A sixth painting, Coffee, a highlight at Art Rooms, was absent, and now takes pride of place on the wall of Project Art founder Johannes Fröhlich.
In her profile, MH states her commitment to exploring “cross-cultural tensions and otherness”. This comes through brilliantly in her paintings and draws on her diverse cultural heritage. MH was born in the UK to Lebanese parents and grew up in Nigeria. MH is also keen to explore the representation of women. This makes for a fascinating range of works.
Many of her pictures reveal the female form in a state of bareness, both natural and adorned. They frequently go deeper, revealing muscles, sinews and bones. There is an intensity in these pictures and almost a crossover between artistic and scientific curiosity. I also like the way that both the external and the internal images of the anatomy maintain a certain element of mystery. Secrets of humanity, emotion and identity are suggested. Part of the self is presented to the world, but it is never completely given away.
The Big Reveal by MH Sarkis, acrylic on canvas
On a purely aesthetic level, I particularly like the way that MH uses a varied palette with colours that might not seem to belong together at first glance, but on closer inspection combine superbly well to add richness and depth to her chosen subjects. This is exemplified in her use of browns, blacks, pinks, blues, white and yellows; subtle hints in some cases, more vivid in others, but always coming together to present beautiful images, blending and contrasting.
The Embrace by MH Sarkis, acrylic on canvas
I am also fascinated by the psychological contrasts being presented. I sense that the subjects, though beautifully portrayed, are somewhat troubled. In some cases, they show peacefulness and satisfaction with their state of being, but there are also suggestions of disquiet and inner turmoil. This seems to be entirely consistent with the theme of conflict within the human condition. Acceptance of the self, but a struggle to overcome suffering, perhaps caused by external restrictions or hardships. For me, The Embrace is a good example of this conflict of feelings.
Alongside the paintings was a video screen showing a recent interview with MH and fellow artist Ozlem Buyukarman, at the Art Rooms 2016 conference. Click here to view.
Adding to the interactive element to the evening, MH conducted a Skype interview on a giant screen with one of her friends in the Dubai art scene. Maha Alsharif, Gallery Manager of Gallery Ward, was delighted to be involved in the evening, and provided a fascinating insight into the latest developments in the art world in the Emirates.
Fellow guests rapt with attention, hearing the latest from Dubai
For me, the best art makes you feel reluctant to turn your eyes away. This is how I feel about MH’s pictures. I want to gaze at them for a long time, to gaze into them. There is so much to explore, and I do not wish to let them go. One must move on, some time, of course, but thankfully MH is a prolific artist and she has an extensive portfolio to enjoy beyond the selection on display during the evening.
Exciting times lie ahead for MH. She has recently been awarded a place on Goldsmiths’ MFA (described as one of the world’s 10 most influential Masters of Fine Art programmes) to continue exploring her practice. This will be an exciting new stage in the development of a fascinating and exceptionally gifted artist.
© Eddie Hewitt 2016
Artist’s Facebook Page
MH Sarkis on Saatchi Art
MH’s page on Project Art – The Social Arts Market