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From the Cradle of the Middle East...
I am Merna Liddawi, an award-winning artist living and working on the South Coast in the UK. I was born in Amman, the capital of Jordan in the Middle East, to an Orthodox family.
Every week my family would take me to Church, and I’d sit for hours absorbing the beauty around me; the vibrant colours of the sacred images, listening to the chanting music, smelling the incense and feeling deep peace and sometimes getting bored. This experience sparked in me feelings of mystery, transcendence and more profound spirituality.
I wasn’t born into a great artistic family who is related to a Picasso or Cezanne. My father was a medical doctor and my mother a stay at home mum. My dad surely had a passion for art. He was terrific at Arabic calligraphy and technical drawing and loved anything creative.
An Unexpected Surprise...
After my father's sudden death caused by heart attack, I left home and travelled to Egypt to University. I was good at science and art wasn't an option. So I finished my studies and gained a Science degree specialising in Physics. During this time, I was on a spiritual journey prompted by my father's death, searching for meaning and purpose of life.
One day, sitting in my room that I rented from a mean, old lady, I was feeling lonely and isolated, trying to deal with the pain of loss. I picked up a pencil, got out a sheet of paper and had my first attempt to copy a small portrait picture I had in my purse of Virgin Mary. That day I surprised myself, and I discovered the magic of creativity; I can draw. I knew it came from outside my self. It was magic; it was a moment full of inner peace and joy.
Discovery that changed my path...
I spent many years teaching Math, IT, Arabic in UK colleges and achieved several qualifications. But my desire to paint and draw was growing until one day I couldn't ignore it anymore. I enrolled in a college in my late 30's and spent the next seven years focusing on studying art and discovering the joys of creativity. It resulted in getting my BA in Fine Art, followed by MFA (Masters in Fine Art) in painting.
My years of art making were life-changing and healing; I realized my calling to add peace and beauty to this world through my paintings, creativity and teaching.
While researching sacred art, I found out how the process of painting could be a prayer, a time of stillness; a moment to pause, reconnect with the Divine; it’s what I call, a ‘Selah’ moment.
When I’m not in my studio, you can find me walking my dog on the beach, in London looking at art, drinking cappuccino in a café, reading a good inspiring book, or having a few days of a quiet retreat at my favourite monastery.
My art is a journey of spiritual growth and my paintings are the culmination of that journey that started at birth.
My paintings are an invitation to remind you of your spiritual moments; a reminder to stop, pause, reconnect and pray.
A reminder to enjoy beauty within yourself and around you in the world you live in; to experience inner peace, and beauty in a world full of noise; to live and enjoy every moment because you deserve it.
Curious to know more?
Here are more facts about me:
- I can write mirror image; back to front in both Arabic and English; it says something about my brains.
- I live in a house full of testosterone; 3 boys, my husband and a male dog.
- I love reading; I have a library full of books on theology, art, spirituality and self-development.
- The only TV show I watch is Game of Thrones.
- I meditate and pray regularly. It's what keeps my creativity flowing and my spirit open.
- Three of my gold paintings are in the collection of a well-known Italian businessman.
Artrooms Fair, Church Palace Hotel, Rome
The APS Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale, The Mediterranean: A Sea of Conflicting Spiritualities, Malta
Florence Biennale, International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Florence, Italy
"Thinking Baroque", Braga, Portugal
'ArtGemini Prize, Asia House, London
'Malamegi Lab.7', Imagoars Gallery, Venice, Italy
Awards and Competitions
2017 'Lorenzo il Magnifico' painting award at Florence Biennale
2017 Shortlisted for Trustees Award, West Dean College, UK
2016 Winner of ArtGemini Painting and Sculpture prize, UK
Marylebone Journal; Discover More publication; Malta Independent Newspaper; Eastern Art Report
MFA (Masters in Fine Art) Distinction, West Dean College, Chichester, UK
BA (Hons) Fine Art, Northbrook College, West Sussex, UK