An Interview With Christina Atik
Lebanese female artist Christina Atik is quickly rising in the contemporary art world with her illustrations focusing on issues related to women such as liberty, beauty and sexuality in male dominated societies. We recently talked with Christina on her artistic career and meanings behind her works.
Danielle Duemesi: You made a series of pieces inspired by your sister’s insecurity about her nose. There are other pieces celebrating other factors of women (sexuality, body hair, etc), were there any stories or experiences that inspired you to include them?
Christina Atik: I suppose each illustration has a story behind it, that either I heard from a lot of my friends or that I experienced personally. In my family it was very frowned upon to live by yourself if you weren’t married. It’s the case in all Arab countries. When I moved out, my parents were always worried that people in the neighborhood or my extended family would think that I’m immoral and would spread rumors about me. They kept trying to try to convince me to live with them for years, but I think now that they see that I’m a stronger and more responsible woman because of it they stopped asking. This inspired the “Living Alone” illustration.
The body hair illustration is inspired by this obsession of hair removal, and this shame over any type of body hair. In many intimate conversations with friends we would discuss how some men get really turned off by any body hair, especially nipple hair, which was recurrent in many stories. It all seems ridiculous, especially considering how hairy Arab men are. On Instagram, that post got a lot of negative comments from men. They would write how hair is dirty on a woman and that it’s so much “cleaner” to have it all removed.
The illustration about asking for what you like sexually comes from all the shame imposed on us regarding our bodies/sexuality. When I was younger, I hated that I was born a girl–– it came with so many restrictions. I couldn’t be loud, I couldn’t go out to play as freely and wildly as the boys could, I couldn’t talk about my period if any men were around, and when the time came to explore my sexuality I just hit a giant wall of shame and guilt and didn’t know how to approach it. I had all these misconceptions in my head that a woman must be quiet and submissive, and that sex is just great for men but for women it was just something they endured. It’s a long journey of self-love and respect, saying no even if its difficult, and saying yes only if you mean it.
Danielle Duemesi: Your work is greatly fueled by your Lebanese background, battling against various Arabic beauty standards. Is there any other influence from Lebanon that shapes your work?
Christina Atik: Other than Arab beauty standards, I would say my experiences in Lebanon as a woman inspire my work. Walking on the street in Beirut is pretty different than anywhere I’ve been. The lack of sidewalks, the devouring stares, the garbage everywhere, the lost potential of a beautiful city life… But I think most of all it’s all the strong and amazing people that share with me their stories, who have experienced and overcome things that I could only see in films. Their strength is something that I sometimes try to capture in a drawing to inspire me when I’m feeling down.
Danielle Duemesi: When I found your Instagram, I also found the Love Beyond/Love is Remote project you worked on for BBC. What was your creative process for this project? Did you have any relation to the subject?
Christina Atik: For the Love Beyond BBC project, I was given the stories of individuals who experienced long distance love in different ways. I don’t have any relation to the subject, but I tried to collect the feelings that these people talked about and turn them into dreamy illustrations that show longing, absence, secrecy…etc. For some of the stories I was given personal photographs of the people who wrote them so I could either have the characters resemble them, or to get a sense of who the person is.
Danielle Duemesi: How did you go about developing your style? Were there any other illustrators or pieces you’ve seen that inspired you?
Christina Atik: I don’t sketch as much as I would like to, but sketching and keeping a notepad close by really helps in developing everything from ideas to style. I think once by mistake I drew an eye in a certain way and liked it, and decided to stick to it. When I was 11, I wanted to change my handwriting, so I sketched around some letters, and borrowed some letters from other people that I liked. My drawing style is the same. Sometimes I borrow elements from artists that I admire, and some things just happen by mistake. I love the topics that Moshtari Hilal draws, the strong and sinister women of Isabella Mazzanti, and the surrealness of Miles Johnston…to name a few.
Danielle Duemesi: What are you currently working on? Is there a project your followers should expect to see from you soon?
Christina Atik: Lately I’ve been lacking some creative energy; winter really isn’t my season. But everything seems to come alive again in spring. I’m working on something for the exhibition “Vices and Validations" by Haven for Artists which will take place in the French Institute on May 2nd. It’s about using what blocks you from expressing yourself or making your art, and turning it into something. It was the perfect project to take on considering feeling a bit uninspired.