AMMAN – On a breezy summer morning, five emerging Jordanian artists came together to present the world with their latest artworks displayed in the heart of Amman. Held at Manara Arts & Culture in Jabal Al Lweibdeh, Frame of Reference is a collective exhibition that stands for seeing the world from multiple perspectives and celebrating subjectivity across a variety of tones, mediums and processes. With all the participants being recent graduates of Visual Arts, artmejo had the chance to see their distinct talents shine bright. 

Scene from Frame of Reference opening with artwork by Salaheddin AlQawasmi

The artists tackle different personal topics that resonate universally to visitors, with each piece telling a story in the contexts of society, politics, and upbringing. They visually showcase a series of complex emotions that dig deep into the human condition, channeling psychological aspects such as memories, thoughts and actions.

Portraying the complexity of the feelings involved across someone’s timeline is not a walk in the park, but one of our participants proved otherwise. Reema Shatat, a multidisciplinary visual artist, shares a personal journey through her monochromatic series. Specialized in painting, Reema works across a variety of tools that allow her to express thoughts freely whether it was on canvas or paper. She draws inspiration from friends and family surrounding her, highlighting intimacy and feelings of compassion between one another, especially in times of hardship. After her diagnosis with an autoimmune disease three years ago, Reema’s perseverance to visually pour this experience out was a driving force in the making of Heavy In Your Arms.

Reema Shatat • Graphite on Cardboard Paper • 70x100cm • 650JOD • Framed

It started by telling others my story and observing people’s own infirmity, portraying different aspects of their lives and building trust. These aspects will take an emotional intimate turn by visualizing the feelings, and not the actions.- Reema Shatat

The opening of this collection shows a self-portrait of the artist engulfed in her mother’s embrace, resting with her eyes closed. Her weight rests against a symbol of safety in between a mountain of sheets. With the pencil lines fluctuating in thickness across the objects sketched, Reema frames a real moment of solace as spectators tread in onto an intimate encounter between mother and daughter. 

Reema Shahtat, Heavy in Your Arms II, Graphite on Paper, 550JOD, 2020

For why I choose pencil? I consider myself to be a line person as I think it’s the purest way I can deliver what my hands can create especially after relapses and spasms caused by my disease. – Reema Shatat

In her facial expressions, we can see a sense of ultimate relief from a destination that has been finally reached and permission to tear down any guard held up. Her relaxed posture embodies finding a place of concrete, well-founded trust. 

The second segment shows a girl laying her head on another’s lap, with a comforting hand resting on her back. There is a raw sincerity shining in the closeness of the two girls, especially with the standing figure’s eyes focused downwards. The idea behind the models sitting this way is to replicate scenes of individuals returning from the war; hurrying back to the arms of a loved one, the hands of a friend or the touch of a sibling. In the drawing, we can identify the recovery from immense pain, but cannot find out where it originates. This further raises our curiosity about who is feeling what, we cannot tell who is ill and who is resilient, and sends us back to a zone of reflection. 

Lastly, the compilation ends with the same persona laying on the ground asleep, but this time, she is all on her own. Pinning her arms down against her chest, we feel her hanging onto an object, but it could well also be an idea, a person or a thought that brings peace to her mind. Here, Reema reminds her viewers to accept themselves before accepting others. She speaks of surrendering into our unrendered and unfiltered spirits with no regrets attached. 


Layan Khawaldeh, Comic Reality II, Soft Pastels on Wood, 80×70 cm, 300 JOD, 2020.

Taking on a different theme under the same umbrella, Layan Khawaldeh’s Comic Reality series tackles escapism and its manifestations in human beings. The concept Layan delivers in her work targets the struggle of identity; how easily we can forget our true selves in the battle of self-discovery within society. Using soft pastels on paper, Layan exhibits clothed human bodies with animal heads such as pig, rabbit and deer. 

The interaction between two objects of nature in one body of work speaks volumes about the contradiction faced as people switch from one mask to another. The presence of animal profiles instead of humans’ speaks of the altering behaviours and personality traits according to external societal settings.

Layan Khawaldeh, Comic Reality I, Soft Pastels on Wood, 80×100 cm, 450 JOD, 2020.

In Comic Reality I, we can see a unique figure standing out from the rest of the crowd. The child adorned in blue has her rabbit mask up her face, revealing a concerned, hesitant expression. She seems to be wondering what her role is under the mask and without it, torn between the truth and its perception. The main idea centers around the harshness of the evolution process and our acknowledgment of reality in disguise. Layan’s ideas were deduced from her thoughts on childhood and a person’s shaping into adulthood, suggesting that those masks are part of the performance of life. 

The idea is that: self-discovery begins during childhood and is influenced by the surrounding environments, rules and restrictions imposed by society on us. These factors make us hide a part of ourselves under a mask to please those around us. Consequently, this mask becomes meshed into us and our true self fades, and thus, false societies that we try to adapt with are built. – Layan Khawaldah

Lubna Al Mousa Exhibition View at Manara Arts & Culture

Delving deeper back in time, Lubna Mousa tickles our brains and walks us down memory lane with her series Roots. Leading her works with watercolour on paper, Lubna’s assembly consists of three self-portraits, each enveloped with a bright colour scheme reminiscent of childhood innocence and purity. In this painting, Lubna reimagines herself as a child again, with goggles on ready to fly; carefree, young and ambitious. Objects such as miniature airplanes, dolls and stuffed animals are props she includes in the portraits which emphasise her attachment to her earliest memories and sparks the joy in revisiting them. 

When we started to plan for our graduation projects, I saw that it has to be something personal and honest, so the art I produce could speak about me. It is something I personally experience on a daily basis, whenever I feel like I am caught up in the adulthood chores and work with too much seriousness I get back to my cosy, happy places and the things I used to do as a kid.- Lubna Al Mousa

Roots is a reminder for us to cherish the simplicity of our younger days, and the little things entwined in our daily lives that add cheer. It is a celebration of boundless imagination that invites the viewer into nostalgia. 

Mais Hassouneh Exhibition View at Manara Arts & Culture

One of the unorthodox notions stumbled upon at Frame of Reference was underscored by Mais Hassouneh’s Narrative compilation. The sequence of four oil paintings takes on a neutral, earthy tonality as art supplies such as brushes and vases play the lead role as the core object addressed. Mais sees feelings inanimate items as well, and incorporates them as an essential component in her life as an artist. 

Mais Hassouneh • Oil on Canvas • 100x80cm • 350JOD • Unframed

For a person who never talks about their inner thoughts in public; of course becoming an artist really helped me translate my thoughts through painting, and presenting my art supplies was really intimate to me, since I spent most of my time in my studio. – Mais Hassouneh

She perceives the mundaneness of these materials as an opportunity to appreciate the calmness and serenity brought about by the things that are often overlooked. Being brought up in a quiet environment, Mais takes still life to the next level by telling us a story about her relationship with her artwork. She successfully turned ordinary pieces around us into the catalysts that helped her grow into the artist she is today. Mais’s well-rooted connection with her personal belongings is a central matter shown in her work. They serve an unbreakable, creative purpose in her. 

Salaheddin Qawasmi Oil on Canvas • 150x150cm • 850JOD • Unframed

Lastly, our coverage of the exhibition is concluded with Salaheddin Qawasmi’s playful series It’s a Parade! The colour scheme here is completely unique and jumps into the vibrant zone of warm and cool shades. Salaheddin chose to paint along with a variety of textural layers as a response to his multicultural upbringing and his desire to manifest this in his works.

Moreover, color saturation and intensity form key elements of the oil duo. Growing up in different countries across the world, Qawasmi wanted to seize the beauty of culture and social synergy; showing us that a place could be transitory, but could live on with us forever.

Oil on Canvas • 150x150cm • 850JOD • Unframed

I wanted my project “It’s a Parade!” to celebrate people and their surroundings, breaking barriers of space and time and opening new doors to explore the chaos of being. I didn’t take the word “parade” literally, where everything and everyone is moving in lines, but I wanted it to manifold through spaces without a fixed path, and to capture fleeting moments of the experiences of the figures, subjects and objects found in the paintings. – Salaheddin Qawasmi 

In the first part of the series, the two structures represented are seen in contrasting positions; floating and lodging around, which could be potential results of human actions and the chaos created by excessive consumption of resources. Salaheddin paints scenes that are unfamiliar to the public eye, and allows an open dialogue about potential interpretations to take place. With a color palette that instantly turns heads, It’s a Parade is a friendly opportunity for guests to form their own metaphorical assumptions of their observations. 

This exposition of the visual art graduates is an absolute wonder. Catch Frame of Reference for these picturesque works of art Manara Arts & Culture, running until the 10th of September.