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October 17 2021 6:31 AM ˚

Jordanian artist uses illustration to breathe life into Arabic idioms

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(Photo: Handout from Hanan Khalil )
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AMMAN — Using cartoon-like depictions, artist Hanan Khalil expresses Arabic slang, idioms, and expressions in her work. “A collection of visuals express the most spoken idioms in Jordan, and it was parallel to what is happening in my life,” Khalil said in an interview with Jordan News.اضافة اعلان


A collection of work called “Figuratively Speaking” by Hanan Khalil. The Jordanian artists turns Arabic expressions and idioms into characters on a page. (Photos: Handout from Hanan Khalil)

In 2018, the “Figuratively Speaking” exhibition was displayed at Jacaranda Images. The exhibition included many idiomatic expressions.

The collection consists of more than 120 pieces that the artist has been working on. Khalil said that this exhibition was based on an old notebook. “The idea started from a sketch I had drawn in an old notebook, and I started collecting my drawings,” Khalil said.


A collection of work called “Figuratively Speaking” by Hanan Khalil. The Jordanian artists turns Arabic expressions and idioms into characters on a page. (Photos: Handout from Hanan Khalil)

Khalil's concept of “Figuratively Speaking” was inspired by the sheer amount of expressions and idioms in the Jordanian dialect. Khalil said that she hopes her work makes people think about the language's symbolism. As all of her work shares a single drawing style, it displays the effort and patience in collecting the phrases and expressing them in a harmonious artistic way.



A collection of work called “Figuratively Speaking” by Hanan Khalil. The Jordanian artists turns Arabic expressions and idioms into characters on a page. (Photos: Handout from Hanan Khalil)

All of the artwork is contained in the book, “Figuratively Speaking” and each drawing takes up the space of a page, with the phrase and interpretation of each meaning written clearly in both Arabic and English, making it easier for those who want to guess the meaning of each drawing and see if they are right.


A collection of work called “Figuratively Speaking” by Hanan Khalil. The Jordanian artists turns Arabic expressions and idioms into characters on a page. (Photos: Handout from Hanan Khalil)

In addition to her experience as an art teacher, the Khalil mentioned that she has studied art, and has participated in many exhibitions and several training courses and workshops with other artists, such as Muhanna Al-Durra and Aziz Amoura.

The artist uses a realistic style to bring the expressions to life.

Khalil added that she is inspired by events from her daily life. “The artist has a stock of ideas,” Khalil said. “I often paint the thoughts that cross my mind or what I am feeling at the moment.” Moreover, she also stated that the artist must write down any idea that comes to mind, as every concept is valuable.

“My first exhibition was in the 90s when I was young, and I also participated in many group exhibitions.”

Furthermore, Khalil has participated in several other exhibitions, including some concentrated on site-specific art, which is a type of art designed for a specific location, where the artist normally considers the location when planning and producing the artwork.

“For three years we have been hosting artists from all over the world, every artist creates an artwork related to the location,” she said.
Additionally, the artist said that it is possible to mix painting with illustration, “There is a thin line between illustration and painting.” She concluded.



She added that the presence of an idea or a message is the foundation of any artwork, and that art can also be an escape from reality. Khalil said that “what is important for art is to communicate an idea, and this idea is usually related to the artist’s life.”

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