Biblically, The Garden of Eden is known as an earthly paradise inhabited by Adam and Eve, the first created and woman prior to their expulsion for disobeying the commandments of God. It was promised to be a place of pure happiness, as long as they remained indifferent to the world below.
Gardens and parks are generally designed as safe havens, taking people out of their ordinary routine, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. They have allowed local communities and residents to experience nature closer to home, reduce stress, help build social relationships and increase the sense of community. But how safe are these havens? In recent years, there has been increasing news reports of mugging, gang grooming, vandalism, sexual harassment and assaults in parks.
In this new body of work, Stranack explores the garden/park as a contested terrain for people, specifically women. Drawing from the artist’s own experiences and fears then weaving them with historical and contemporary references, she creates a set of fictional female heroines to explore the garden as a safe haven and contested space.
Use the arrows to view Latifah’s sketches
Stranack has been exploring the Garden of Eden and notions of memory, desire and nature, using local parks nearby her home as a reference point. This proved to be very fruitful to Stranack, as there is a lot to see, hear and experience on a daily basis.
“There has always been something magical about entering the calm and peace of a garden. From the bird song to the buzzing bees, suddenly I feel at home and in harmony with the natural world. I find solace when walking past families having picnics and lovers hidden beneath the leaves of a tree.”
The garden has inspired many before me, and so themes from the past like Adam and Eve in their paradise obviously was a key starting point in my research.
But I realised that I needed to use contemporary images. I sourced fashion magazines and websites for trendy clothing, but then fused this with clothing from the Middle East where I grew up as a child. I painted traditional Batoola masks alongside western fashion. I also have been looking at the ‘white dress’ and often depict ladies wearing one, I think this is to symbolise the bride, purity, Chasitity and innocence.
Use the black dots to view or listen to the resources that inspired Latifah in making this painting, Pursuit of Paradise.
The Pursuit of Paradise, 2022
Acrylic, spray paint, oil, pigment stick on canvas
300 w x 215 h cm
Courtesy the artist
Watch The Awakening, a black and white stop-motion painting animation by Latifah A. Stranack.
The Awakening, 2022
Single channel video, black and white stop motion animation
4 minutes 34 seconds
Courtesy the artist
The Awakening is a 4 minute video in black and white. The work begins with a stop motion animation of painted abstract motifs and shapes that make up figures and goddesses relating to the Garden of Eden. This is played against an ominous, foreboding soundtrack (Soundtrack title, artist).
From minute 3.08, the scene shifts to footages from Latifah’s local park — close up of trees, the sky, clouds and people walking in the park. This is accompanied with a poem read by Stranack.
During Stranack’s residency with In Transit, she used a variety of mediums from hand drawn animation to drawing, mixed media on paper and large scale painting.
In making The Awakening, Stranack tested new colour combinations with pigment sticks – presented on the right are a selection of sketches and compositions that were used in the work. Stranack aimed to create images inspired by Eve in the Garden of Eden, fertility goddesses and her local park.
Use the arrows to view the selected compositions that are included in The Awakening
Born to parents from the East and the West, Latifah has always been interested in the concept of cultural hybridity, specifically how it has shaped her senses, and the lens through which she experiences the world.
Through painting, she challenges the perceptions of her female body and gaze with and without the veil and mask. She invents female heroines as a tool to explore these concepts -- sometimes they appear half visible beneath a sheer veil, almond eyes staring intently through a traditional batoola mask, or with lids delicately closed, lost deep in contemplation. These women and their surroundings, that she obsessively paints, are all fictional members of her metaphorical tribe.
The bold figures of her tribe are turned into goddesses, symbolising and celebrating the child, maiden, mother and wise old woman while expressing the inner psyche and external aspects of femininity. Mending all the broken umbilical cords of DNA, separated by time, land and mispronounced vowels.