Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sarah Maple: Controversy or Misunderstanding?

Sarah Maple

Sarah Maple has been called many things due to her art-- some people have lashed out at her with vulgar anonymous messages, others have praised her for her bravery and humor, some have called her the heir to Tracey Emin's throne. As I’ve said before, I’m pleased to call her 'friend'. Thus, I was a bit concerned after being informed of the following article by Tim Walker for . See below,

“Sarah Maple's exhibition poses questions that anger Muslims:

She’s been described as the new Tracey Emin, but even that femme terrible would probably fear to tread the territory that Sarah Maple is currently negotiating. The artist, who has shown at Ronnie Wood’s Scream gallery, has a new exhibition with a headline picture showing a Muslim woman cradling a pig.

Already, Mokhtar Badri, the vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain, tells Mandrake that his organisation plans to visit the SaLon Gallery, in Notting Hill, west London, to demand that it remove Maple’s painting when it exhibits it next week.

“Although we condemn violence, Muslims have a right to express their disgust at this work,” he tells me. “An artist has the right to free speech and to express him or herself, but people also have the right to protest. She clearly wants to provoke a strong reaction from Muslims and that is what she will get.”

Maple, 23, who was brought up as a Muslim, has already evoked Islamic wrath. Her exhibition at Rolling Stone Wood’s gallery earlier this year depicted Muslim women in provocative poses, including one suggestively sucking on a banana.

Badri explained the upset that would be caused over the image. “Muslims believe that all of God’s creatures should be treated with respect, but we are taught to keep our distance from pigs because they are unclean,” he said. “That is why this picture is so offensive to us.”

A spokesman for the gallery explained: “She doesn’t intend to offend anyone but simply wants to pose questions about Muslim culture and identity.””
A few sites have already picked up on this story in a negative manner. For example, had the following to say about Sarah Maple due to Walker's article: "But the typical Muslim way of protesting has a way of turning ugly, and the words of Badri do not inspire confidence that any protests will be peaceful. Sarah should keep in mind what happened to Theo Van Gogh, and all the threats and action against the Dutch cartoonists." The StoptheACLU article is titled Muslim Anger: I Hope Sarah Maple Gets Some Bodyguards, Plus Other Stuff. It is sad that StoptheACLU is using this story for their agenda while offering very little information about Sarah's art. In that sense, they are part of the problem.
As I have said before, people often think that Sarah Maple is trying to be offensive with her Islamic based art. This is a huge misconception as she is Muslim herself and would not want to offend her own faith. With her work she reveals the confusion that many young Muslims face within the context of contemporary western society. This study offers the viewer 'food for thought' and is influenced by the quest to discover and question 'Identity'. The majority of her paintings are self portraits.

In her work she questions if it is possible to be a 'good' Muslim in the West; especially if you are mixed race and from two contrasting cultural backgrounds like she is. Islam is indeed a way of life. But what do modern British Muslims do surrounded by both influences? Which lifestyle do they choose? Or can the two be fused?

Please read the two interviews I’ve had with Sarah Maple in order to learn more about her art and goals:

My first interview with Sarah Maple:

My second interview with Sarah Maple:

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Donald Frazell said...

Children should be seen and not heard. She is screaming, Look at me! This is not about the identity of her people, her faith, humanity, ora anything outside of herself. It is about her. Her identity. Tahts for children, come bakc when you have something to say, like when you grow up.

This is not conducive to understanding, it is about putting the desires of the individual over the needs of the people. No 23 year old has a clue as what that means. Come back when you are 30, and have lived some. Plus, badly painted.

Again, a really big.
Art collegia delenda est.

No non art student would ever do something this absurd. Most students would leave it where it belongs, in her diary. She can look back it years later, and see how silly she had been. The problem is more any gallery showing such truly self-revelatory childishness. This isnt art, but a self help program.

Anonymous said...

Sarah is a very brave young woman. You don't have to like her art to see that. I think Frazell has her all wrong. Issues like that need to be explored and not locked away. Young muslims have had to hide so many things. There is so much conflict with being young in contemporary society and having faith at the same time. The same goes for young people of other faiths. Donald is a bonehead.

josephbolstad said...

Donald, again off you go with your sweeping generalizations. Why don't you include a link to your site so people can see what you're making, so we can compare? I agree with you that Maple's painting skills seem underdeveloped, but I've seen your paintings, and I got news for you -- some of them are badly painted, too.

All that said, I do think she is brave for standing up to such absurd, veiled threats. At first I thought her work was really weak, conceptually and technically, but it seems to be getting more nuanced a challenging.

Anonymous said...

Who knows why, I am not surprised about these attacks, I would have been surprised if the usual violent imbeciles whom for ‘feeling to be Muslims’ need to show their small brains and alleged big muscles, would have spoiled this tasty occasion for gifting us with their anti-social behavior.
I do not think, however, that her work has an high artistic values and I have the impression that, as many today, she tends to use the 'Muslim rage' as an easy shortcut to success. But this is just my impression.

Anonymous said...

Her so-called art is tedious and puerile. However, anything that upsets ghastly theocrats cannot be all bad.