By Dea Fejzullahu
Aleena Sharif is an artist from Karachi, Pakistan known for representing the female body through her craft. She wants females to feel comfortable in their body types, showcasing common insecurities in the form of remarkable art in order to leave the viewer empowered.
Aleena Sharif is a painter from Pakistan who wants to create a safer environment for women and young girls through her art. Her paintings contain a warm ambiance, often playing with different colour tones and shades. She says that the art community has for the most part responded positively to her work, viewing it with both excitement and inspiration.
“I have received a lot of comments about people feeling connected to the figures, as well as how they see themselves in the paintings,” she says.
Her interactions with her audience have made her understand the impact of these paintings in daily life, where some types of the female body have been hidden from the public eye. In Pakistan, it’s hard for females to proudly showcase their bodies because of the country’s belief system. But this fact didn’t stop Sharif from trying to spread her message in her birth country, as she explains.
“In Pakistan, it’s a little different because I must be careful and curate my audience. The interactions I’ve had here are more centred around how people feel safe and seen in the presence of the paintings, and how they are happy that work like mine is being shown here.”
Sharif’s works have also been exhibited and received attention in online media.
In the art community, finding your target audience can take a lot of work, but Sharif expresses that she's one of the lucky ones in that aspect, explaining that many people see their own bodies in her art and thus often feel connected right away.
Creative Process and Inspiration
“All my work is very emotion-dependent. So, I will usually be driven by something I am experiencing, which I then try to get down on a canvas,” Sharif says.
For her, the creative process mainly expresses her thoughts about her own body and superstition, but leave viewers to find their own meaning in each piece.
It could be suggested that the painting Seven Rings (see above) inspires confidence in the viewer, or alternatively, it's an excellent way of showing wealth through jewellery. For the artist, however, each ring represents something significant, but Sharif expresses that there is no right answer in analysing her art, and that each piece is left open for interpretation.
Evil Eye is another example of Sharif using symbolism to convey a deeper meaning. Through this piece, she expresses the sense behind the evil eye, with the Pakistani coins being incorporated. As a superstitious person, she always wears an evil eye, and the Pakistani coins represent her feeling closer to home.
“The story behind the piece (above) is that I was feeling a little self-conscious about my body, so I painted this to get that feeling out of my body,” She said of the first painting.
Sharif reveals that the second painting was a result of her removing this energy from the universe, essentially picking the feeling of discomfort and self-consciousness from her mind. She says that while her paintings do contain certain symbols or metaphors, they primarily serve to express and bring physicality to her internal feelings and emotions.
When asked what the point of sharing her paintings was, she explained that he wanted to help spread confidence and self-love through art.
"In my life I’ve been made to make myself smaller, and I want to fight against that. I want women to take up as much space as they can and want to, unapologetically. I want them to demand the attention and respect they deserve,” she says.
She understands that with the restrictions in her country and the risk getting banned on Instagram, it would be much easier to create something safer given the circumstances. However, Sharif has a drive for a better world and is willing to take the risks to express her message of confidence.
“I create work that I want to see in the world, and I wanted to see more of me,” she says. "That, and the female body is just beautiful and fun to paint. I can't get enough."
Erato Magazine always asks artists how they know a piece is finished, and for Sharif, it's almost like a sixth sense.
“Other than the technical aspect of having it work. There’s a moment when you step back from a canvas and feel when it’s done. It feels like a sigh of relief. It’s hard to explain, and each painting has its own journey, but you’ll be able to look at it and know,” she responds.
Challenging Traditional Notions of Art with Female Representation
Her figures are very different from what we usually see in paintings; this is Sharif's way of creating her version of reality. Having studied a lot of historical art, Sharif found that female figures were often being looked at. In her own approach, the painting looks down at the viewer, almost enforcing a sense of respect in the viewer.
“By reversing the roles, it gives control and power to the figures.”
Aleena’s advice to young artists is to create what they want to see in the world themselves.
“It’s an opportunity to create your own world, your own language," she says, adding that, "It’s supposed to be fun."