Fahrelnissa and the Institutes: Towards a Sky
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Until February 2, 2023, Cultural Foundation invites everyone to attend the exhibition Fahrelnissa and the Institutes: Towards a Sky. It is dedicated to the abstract work of the internationally famous female artists who played a crucial role in forming the Modern and Contemporary art scene in Jordan: Fahrelnissa Zeid, Wijdan Ali, Hind Nasser, and Ufemia Rizk. The exhibition highlights the link of mentorship, education and community between artists and women.

It was Fahrelnissa Zeid who had the most profound influence; she founded the Royal National Jordanian Institute Fahrelnissa Zeid of Fine Arts in Amman. Women were encouraged to explore their artistic limits there. Another influential figure was Wijdan; she also established educational frameworks in Amman that taught artists. Nasser and Rizk, who studied under Fahrelnissa Zeid, have created their own bodies of work, while contributing to community building in the art world.

About the artists

Fahrelnissa Zeid

Painter Fahrelnissa Zeid (born in 1901, İstanbul) was one of the first women pupils at the Istanbul Women’s Beaux Arts Academy in 1919. In 1928, she studied under cubist painter Roger Bissièreat at the Académie Ranson in Montparnasse. Coming back from Paris to Istanbul, she turned towards modernism and expressionism and became the only Turkish female member of the Avant-garde art group D Grubu in 1941. 

In 1946, Zeid left for London, where she got interested in abstraction and later joined the Nouvelle École de Paris society. Zeid became the first female artist to have a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. 

In 1975, Zeid moved to Amman and began teaching art, contributing to the normalization of abstraction in Jordan. 

Fahrelnissa Zeid, Puncta Imperator, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Collection

Fahrelnissa Zeid focused on the spiritual over physical and technical aspects of art making. “[…] She was not the most meticulous painter and did not always bother to finish things like other artists. [Her work] is more spontaneous,” says conservator Natasha Walker. Among Zeid’s most recognizable art pieces are large-scale paintings with kaleidoscopic patterns. She invented her own unique visual language by infusing elements of life and cultures. 

Wijdan Ali

Born in 1939, Baghdad (now based in Amman, Jordan), Wijdan Ali is a Jordanian painter, art historian, and curator. In 1961, she got her BA in art history from Beirut College for Women in Beirut. In 1964, Wijdan took private lessons in Fine arts and started painting. In 1993, she completed an MA and a Ph.D. in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. 

Wijdan, “Calligraphic Abstraction”-1, 1993. Mixed media on paper (9 Pieces)

In Amman, Wijdan founded Jordan’s Royal Society of Fine Arts and the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. In 2001, she founded and headed the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Jordan. 

The artist’s major goal is to revive the Islamic art traditions. To create her art pieces, Wijdan uses transcribed texts with abstract shapes washed in bright colors using mixed media on Japanese cotton paper. The themes Wijdan explores in her art are focused on universal tragedy, mainly of the Arab Islamic world.

Hind Nasser 

Jordanian artist Hind Mango Nasser (born in 1940, Amman) graduated with a BA in History & Politics from Beirut College for Women in 1961. In 1976, she started studying painting at the Royal Jordanian Institute Fahrelnissa Zeid for Fine Arts, where she studied under Fahrelnissa Zeid, the artist herself.

Hind Nasser, “Untitled”, 1993. Acrylic on paper

One of Nasser’s main aims was to develop the cultural scene in her country. She started teaching and established the Alumnae Club of her College, a Children’s Club for cultural activities, the Jordan Crafts Council, and the Jordan lkebana chapter. Also, Nasser was one of the founders of the National Music Conservatory of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation. She was Chairperson for 15 years and one of the founding members of the Jordan Museum for archaeology. In 1995, the artist started her own project, the Jordan Arts & Crafts Center / Artisana; then she established her own gallery, Gallery 14. 

Ufemia Rizk

Born in 1943, Jaffa, Ufemia Rizk now resides in Montreal, Canada. She studied at the American University in Beirut, Sorbonne University in Paris, and Fahrelnissa Zeid Royal Institute of Fine Arts.

As an artist, Rizk strives to get to the core of the mysteries of the universe. On canvas she uses geometric abstractions to capture and express her own vision of cosmic forces. 

Ufemia Rizk, Joyful Success. Oil on canvas. Overall: 29 1/2 x 35 7/16in. Courtesy of the artist, Montreal, Canada

Among the awards Rizk has received are Medal of the Salon de Paris 3rd International Festival, Osaka; Gold Medal for French Merit; and six other gold medals. Her artworks were featured in many exhibitions: Festival Images du Monde Arabe, Montreal, Canada, 1996; Spanish Cultural Centre, Amman, 1990 and ’92;  Jordanian Painters Exhibition, Amman, 1983 and ’91; and others.

To learn more, please visit the official webpage of the exhibition.

You might also be interested in visiting the exhibition of Yaw Owusu titled In the Cool of the Day.