Corinne Martin: Empowering Change Through Art

Courtesy of Corinne Martin

Truly a multicultural by-product--having been born in Paris, raised in Beirut, educated in Houston, and now living in Riyadh--Corinne Martin interprets iconography of contemporary Arab pop culture derived from television, music, food, and fashion through her mixed media and paintings. She’s also very interested in the notion of the region being a meeting point between Western and Eastern sensibilities and the role globalization plays amidst that. “After returning to the Middle East, I was able to experience my roots both as an adult and as an artist from a fresh perspective,” she says. “The region is experiencing immense cultural growth and has a new, rejuvenating energy that inspires and infuses my work.”

Courtesy of Corinne Martin
I could not help but gravitate towards her retro-esque paintings of popular and iconic symbols of Arab pop culture. Having grown up and currently based in the Arabian Gulf myself, Martin's work depicts an intensely, immediately familiar world of images, an integral part of my particular visual universe – for example, the imagery of Miranda or popular washing detergent, Tide [above] conveyed in Arabic script. “I’ve always drawn inspiration from those iconic images as they reflect the experiences of a younger generation of Arabs who came of age between the East and West,” Corinne says. “They have shaped our visual culture, which is why [my] kind of art resonates with so many people as it has an emotional connection to their past.”

The colors of her works are undeniably mint fresh – and yet, they also possess the feel of vintage posters and labels, the colors possessing a hyper-real bleached quality. The works’ effect is to render you nostalgic – while simultaneously able to re-live that past in the present.

Courtesy of Corinne Martin
Martin also wants to explore through the medium of her art how globalization has changed the lives of newer generations of young women in the Arabian Gulf region. For example, referring to the preceding Powerpuff paintings, she remarks that she perceives them as a tool to empower young girls while couching it in a language both playful and accessible to them. "The Powerpuff characters challenge the status quo and the definition of a woman's role in society," Marin shares. And, she hopes that engagement with such works will subliminally influence young women into reflecting and negotiating with their self-identities.

By continuing to create pop art in Riyadh, Martin feels that she too is redefining the boundaries of what constitutes a woman’s role in the Gulf. “I feel that I am empowering young girls by exposing them to a new way of thinking and defining the world around them,” she says, elaborating that when these women see artists such as Corinne thinking outside the box, it gives them the courage to be individuals and creative agency to articulate their unique voices, unburdened by gendered expectations or stereotypes. “It's a privilege to be part of this change and to have this opportunity,” she says.

Images courtesy Corinne Martin