On the 17th of July, the Orient Gallery welcomed visitors to the opening of Jordanian artist Juman Nimri’s solo exhibition, Another Dream. Running until the 9th of August, the show comprises a series of paintings and installations depicting oneiric settings that combine various everyday symbols such as travel bags, sewing machines, and most potently, cacti. While the show does not mark a drastic departure from Nimri’s characteristically expressionistic style, the artist’s bold use of color and shift towards still-life in Another Dream are a testament to her artistic growth.

Having received her initial degree in Fine Arts from Yarmouk University in 1996, Nimri has since been exhibited internationally. Her work has taken her to Turkey, Egypt, South Korea, and the United States, among many other places, and her identity as a traveler can be seen to have informed some of the artwork in Another Dream. Indeed, the concept of travel is manifest in the multiple luggage bags recurrent in the paintings displayed. In one installation, an actual travel bag is transfigured into a miniature house of sorts, suspended in cottony cloud -a visual metaphor for the desire to pack one’s home life during travel.

Juman Nimri, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 70x70cm, 2018, Jordan

Additionally, Another Dream is also rife with plant life, especially cacti. According to the exhibition catalogue and the artist herself, the cactus had had “a shy unseen presence” in her work prior to Another Dream, making coy cameos in a few still-life paintings from as early in her career as 2005. However, with this show, Nimri approached the motif with a newfound confidence, tackling subject matter she had previously been intimidated by and celebrating the symbolic succulent for all it stood for to her: strength, resilience, and wisdom. Her older, sombre etchings are replaced here by flamboyant assemblages of flora, furniture, fashion, and, of course, cacti.  

Another motif Nimri recycles from older installations like Arab Spring (2015) and Laila ya Laila (2015) is that of the baby doll subjected to cruelty. In The Immigrant’s Spirit (2018), the children’s toy is seen quite literally swimming with the fishes at the bottom of a tank of goldfish. An apt reference to the morbid refugee stories circulating global consciousness in recent times, the piece was one of two alluding strongly to the crisis, the other aimed towards the idea of home and what it meant to lose it.

As one would expect of dreamscapes, Another Dream brings together mundane objects in sometimes irrational configurations, and as with the interpretation of dreams, the meaning of Nimri’s symbolic play is up in the air. However, though the subconscious forces driving her paintbrush remain not fully discernible, her expressions continue to invite viewers’ speculations. At once dreamy and nightmarish, Another Dream is Juman Nimri’s way of creating a space in between the real and the imagined in which viewers are free to construct their own realities.

Juman Nimri, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 86x70cm, 2018, Jordan
Images courtesy of the artists.