Shireen Taweel

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New grantee Shireen Taweel in her studio. Image credit: Jacquie Manning.

Shireen Taweel is a contemporary coppersmith who uses her craft to explore identity, site and cross-culturalism. Shireen’s hand-cut copper work both celebrates her heritage and is used to engage her two cultures, Australian and Lebanese, in a transcultural exchange. A Cultural Trust grant will support Shireen to undertake a 3-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, a mentorship with French Algerian artist Kadia Attia, and a week's fieldwork in Marseille, France. 

 Tell us about your current practice?

I have pushed my creative practice through rigorous work and experimentation within the medium of coppersmithing, bringing this traditional medium into a contemporary context. My work explores the construction of cultural heritage, knowledge and identity through language and the constantly shifting public space of the social, political and religious axiom. 

My artistic practice draws from the personal experience of being Lebanese Australian; living between cultures, and how the physical spaces within my community reflect a complex cultural landscape of transformation expressed through hybridity and plurality. 

The development of my work is often site-specific, weaving local narratives and research with a focus on experimentation with material and sound. 

My acquisition of traditional coppersmith artisan skills is a research vessel for community-focused conceptual development. The application of artisan techniques and manipulation of the traditional acts of making makes cross-cultural discourse, dialogues of shared histories and fluid community identities possible.

Tell us more about the professional development opportunity you will embark on? 

My project involves career development in France while on residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, a week's fieldwork in Marseille, studio work development in both Sydney and Paris and an exhibition outcome at Fairfield City Museum. My project is rooted with the intention to explore the ongoing French cultural practices in Lebanon through linguistics and its effects on the shared Lebanese cultural identity in Australia, Lebanon and France.

France is the third in a triad of locations in which I am undertaking extensive research and conceptual development towards my next body of work. I have recently returned from Lebanon, predominantly Beirut, working exclusively on the underlying influences of French cultural practice. My focus is on the French language and how Lebanese identity is reflected through the lens of adopted linguistics, a fragmented social language of French and English more predominantly spoken than the mother tongue Arabic.

When undertaking research and studio development in Paris and Marseille, I intend to engage with French-speaking Arabs from diverse cultural backgrounds, however, with a focus on the Lebanese-French community. Marseille has a prominent Arab and North African community; a week of fieldwork will introduce me to Arab–French culture and language in another unique context contributing to my research. I plan to meet with Kader Attia in Paris while undertaking my residency at Cité Internationale as Attia lives and works between Berlin and Paris. Attia's recent solo shows at the MCA Sydney, and ACCA Melbourne is a great influence on how I approach and undertake research within my own practice.

How will this advance your arts practice?

My project will give me the opportunity to work in-residence at Cité Internationale des Arts for three months, which is invaluable creative development at this point in my career. I wish to engage more broadly with the creative communities outside of the Australian diaspora in order to be conceptually challenged and to engage critically in global cross-cultural dialogue and to develop a more collaborative transnational practice. The opportunity to build relationships with other artists while in residence will be highly beneficial for my practice. The outcome of my professional development in France, the fieldwork and studio development, will result in an extensive solo exhibition at the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery in July 2020.

I feel the focus on language, its relationship to understanding cultural identity and the evolution of community is an important one, not only for the ever-broadening Lebanese community but also the wider-reaching debates around interrelated global identities holding value. I will bring this discourse back to Australia through my next body of work regarding the fluidity of language and its relativity to place. My experiences in France, connecting to local artists and art spaces like La Colonie and Institute Du Monde Arabe will provide great professional development and also much needed creative influence to my future exhibition at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery.

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