From Darkness Comes Light
The Damascus-born, Paris-based photographer and sculptor Laila Muraywid sets out to explore the human body through varying shades of light and from different angles. Here, she talks to ArtScoops about her choice of media, reconciling conflicts and the impact that war has had on her work
You’ve worked with a diverse range of media over the years. How did you arrive at your preferred combination of sculpture and photography and what do they give you that other media can’t?
My work is a continuous discussion between me and the world; I needed a language to structure, analyse and organise this outside-inside world which is always in a state of tension, turning around wounds, fears and desire. I use different media - photography, sculpture and drawing - out of necessity. It’s a question of limits and distance. Photography can reveal many depths, since it’s related to looking and seeing, but sculpture is related to all of the senses. Recently, sculpture has taken forms that have grown silently and slowly, like shadows of things that were built from the accumulation of objects, ideas, feelings and forms - everything that can fill the gap between me and the world.
You are known for using the female body in your work to explore topical issues, such as hypocrisy, violence and taboos. How do you decide on your themes and where do you find your inspiration?
The body - my body and those of other women - is a life-long examination of my inner world; this uneasy coexistence of the self and the world, of the individual and the community. The body is a starting point for me, as form, subject and a place of negotiating limits. Working with the body means working with taboos, since the body is constantly confronted with the possibility of its own destruction.
Have you ever found yourself feeling conflicted about the jewellery and couture you create and the work in which you examine issues such as the parameters of beauty and society’s expectations of women?
I see my sculptural-jewellery as an act that dares to address the uncertainty related to the unconscious, the magic of fertility and the renewal of life, and reconcile it with the worship of a goddess. The choice of new materials, such as metals, stones and resin, is important since part of the challenge for me is how to turn the non-precious into something precious.
You were born in Syria and graduated from the Damascus-based School of Fine Arts. How has the civil war there and broader Middle East turmoil influenced your work and outlook?
The war was a turning point for me. I needed to develop new ways of dealing with new limits of the incomprehensible and illusory. Unexpectedly, the time of war has also been a time of transformation and regeneration marked by contradictions: constructive and destructive. Time and distance can create unresolved feelings and fears, and give them physical forms - forms that can help to create and build a place of belonging to escape to. However, you can still end up questioning the accuracy of your memories. Both new materials and new ways of dealing with them have been an essential reminder that it’s still possible to make and do something.
What do you regard as your career highlights to date?
I’m currently working on two separate projects; one is a book, in which I’m exploring the theme of language, and is heavily influenced by the medium of sculpture, and the other is related to performance, with a focus on the use of repetition in a script. Both are challenging me in different ways!