Elizabeth Kwant is a British Artist working with themes of identity, representation and migration. Her ongoing body of work “Mediterreanea” began in 2014 prompted by the onset of the European migrant crisis harnesses appropriated media images with specific reference to the locations of the Morocco- Melilla and Syria-Turkey border.
Kwants bold and colourful screen prints playfully reinterpret the contemporary socio-political crisis often focusing upon a central character who’s taken out of their context. Dynamic compositions are executed with newspaper-like halftone quality; bodies contorted, are edited and re-represented. Figures embody positions of victory, aspiration, resignation and defeat. Brightly coloured backgrounds are carefully hand painted using everyday household paint colours, chosen specifically for their idealised titles - “Utopia Beckons, Fare Thee Well, No Boundaries, Adrift at Sea, California Dreaming, Sundown, Golden Rays, English Primrose…” The resulting body of work opens up tensions and paradoxes between the subject and their designated titles. Kwant speaks of this tension as ‘opening up a space to question wider narratives, how identity is constructed and ultimately how history is recorded.’
More recently, Kwant has incorporated the use of gold into her screen prints. This act makes reference both to the meanings associated with the use of gold throughout art history - gold making reference to the divine, and also references the history of iconography. Through the act of placing her subjects on an iridescent gold plane, she both subverts the stereotype of their context as being readily recognizable, whilst also, in effect redeeming her subject. The gold becomes an abstract three-dimensional space, in which the viewer can catch glimpses of themselves reflected back and is thus implicated into the narrative.
The work is intended to be shown in sets, thereby creating a multi-layered effect echoing Stuart Hall’s call for hybridity in identity formation- the coexistence of multi-narratives, thus offering a space for the reinterpretation of the migrant, and our human stories.
Kwant received an MA in Fine Art with distinction from Edinburgh College of Art & Edinburgh University in 2006. Her MA Thesis was titled "Translating Exile: A Politics of Identity and Representation in the work of contemporary Iranian artist Shirin Neshat." Kwant's research interests include: Contemporary Art from North Africa and The Middle East, Migration Studies, Visual Cultures, Identity Politics, Gender & Cultural studies. Kwant has lived in Morocco and Qatar, where she studied Arabic and is Exhibitions Curator at The Alexandria Library Manchester; a multi-cultural bookshop and artist- led exhibition space showcasing the work of emerging artists from the MENA region and diaspora. Kwant lives and works in Manchester, is a member of Hot Bed Press Print Studios and an Associate Member of The Castlefield Gallery.