In the Interstitial Exile

I Arrange Fluted Lunar Velvet Pillowcases

Yasmeen Dajani

In the Interstitial Exile I Arrange Fluted Lunar Velvet Pillowcases, 2020
Colour pencil and oil pastel on paper, 14" x 17"
Painting and Drawing, Concordia University

In the Interstitial Exile I Arrange Fluted Lunar Velvet Pillowcases responds to the contradictingly oppressive and engaging dimensions of orientalist painting. Aware of the colonial and misogynistic gaze of orientalist painters from the art historical canon, Dajani grapples with the aesthetic beauty of such prejudiced work. While orientalist paintings contribute to harmful cultural discourse, the visual appeal of the fabrics, patterns, and textures depicted in such paintings cannot be denied. Conscious of this objectifying perspective imposed on her cultural heritage, Dajani challenges and reclaims depictions of Middle Eastern women. Her maximalist presentation of the same fabrics and textures gives an atmosphere that is at once playful and agitated. The extravagant layers and bold colours of the patterns straddle the line between discomfort and aesthetic enjoyment, overwhelming yet delighting viewers.

At the centre of the work, the subject applies her lipstick with an expression that sits between confidence and ambivalence. Dajani’s choice of patterns and fabrics celebrates feminine aesthetics, and also contributes to the work's unsettlingly busy ambiance. In creating this playful back-and-forth, the piece reclaims the ability to engage with femininity as an aesthetic framework that is both captivating and complex. Through its whimsicality, the drawing invites viewers to examine this framework with multifaceted perspectives. Basking in visual pleasure while making space for discomfort, Dajani’s piece embraces the nuances that come with engaging with femininity.