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Hollowed Eyes: Viewing Life As a Female Artist

Muted mouths, expressionless faces, and hollowed-out eyes serve as the distinctive features of Tbark Mansour's artworks. Her paintings depict intricate and colorful female figures set against a dim and dull background. The beauty that emanates from her work is not rooted in conventional feminine standards tailored to the male gaze. Instead, it is an uncomfortably haunting and disturbing beauty.

Tbark Mansour is an Iraqi artist who holds a diploma of fine arts and a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Baghdad. Her flame of academic accomplishments was preceded by a spark of artistic interest evident since her childhood, drawing in her dad’s room or shaping mud in their garden.

"I began drawing before pursuing formal studies in fine arts, and my artistic ability allowed me to stand out among my peers in school.” Tbark told us “While talent is innate, it requires nurturing and education over many years. That's why I was determined to study at the institute and academy. Even after completing my formal education, my learning journey continues unabated. Art demands the artist's undivided attention to remain aligned with the ever-changing art world."

While the art world may be ever-changing, the same cannot be said for Iraq’s society. With its traditions and outdated beliefs, creating a stagnation that affects various aspects of the lives of its creatives, particularly female artists. Tbark finds herself grappling with the cognitive dissonance between what is and what should be. "I will not sugarcoat anything and will respond with complete honesty and clarity. As an artist, I strive to minimize the impact of the environment I live in, particularly the effects of war and destruction Iraq had on me. I endeavor to shape myself into someone who is not bound by the constraints of this challenging environment that surrounds me.

A glimpse into Tbark's struggle and the environment that bred it can be found by scrolling through her Instagram highlights and posts. Her art, images of herself, photographs from the 2020 protests, and snapshots of everyday life in Iraq are all intertwined, forming a

tapestry of feminine rage, beauty, and mystery. "But despite everything, I still find that the essence of Iraqi heritage remains evident in the faces and artworks I create. It seems that my

efforts to distance myself from the impact of war and destruction I have witnessed are, in fact, a form of escapism. I yearn to escape from this reality because I cannot envision a positive future within its confines."

In addition to the hollowed eyes and muted mouths depicted in her paintings, there exists a metaphorical mask, concealing the painful screams and tears that lie beneath. It is this façade of social acceptance that I have asked Tbark to shed, inviting her to reveal what lies behind it.

In her usual gentle and composed tone, Tbark expresses the dual struggles she faces.

"I feel like I am facing a double struggle! the first struggle is the everyday challenge of being a young woman pursuing my passion and showcasing my talent in a society where I feel like I don't fit in or fully comprehend."

"The second challenge pertains to the limitations and restrictions placed on my freedom. Despite these difficulties, I confront these challenges with determination and resilience.

My ultimate desire is to overcome these struggles and aspire to live in a society that aligns with my values, a society that truly respects art and values the contributions of women."

When asked about her hopes for how her art is perceived, Tbark emphasizes her approach of presenting her work and ideas to the audience without preconceived expectations. She possesses a genuine curiosity and love for hearing the thoughts of true art enthusiasts, welcoming diverse interpretations that offer fresh perspectives on her creations.

Her most recent work, created in preparation for her upcoming exhibition, features her signature masked hallowed-eyed face. However, this time, there is a noticeable difference—her mouth is not muted. Instead, it is depicted opposing the lips of a much maller face, as if a mother whispering into her innocent child. The entire scene is rendered in shades of warm, incandescent red.

This captivating artwork inspired me to ask Tbark about the message she would like to convey to all the young girls out there who dream of becoming artists. "I have nothing but good wishes for her. I hope she grows up in an environment that embraces her, a

nurturing space that refines her skills and talents. May the odds be in her favor, enabling her to flourish and succeed."

You can delve into Tbark’s captivating world and stay updated on her future artistic endeavors by following her on Instagram account @tbark_mansour

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