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August 14 2022 3:27 PM ˚
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Sara Allan: Seeing the beauty in the mundane

Sara Allan is able to take the seemingly mundane scenes and interactions of daily life, internalize and reflect upon them deeply, and then produce something totally new and unique. (Photo: Handout from Sara Allan)
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AMMAN — Sara Allan’s visual art is instantly recognizable if you know what to look for, a particular blending of color and caricature into a signature aesthetic.اضافة اعلان

She hasn’t honed in on such a distinct aesthetic for her DJ sets yet, but while we chatted in her Sweifieh studio I got a sense of her approach; she played a soothing medley of atmospheric beats, subtly switching to some downtempo rap music after I mentioned that I was a rap fan. It was unobtrusive while still setting and maintaining a vibe, a smooth and subtle reading of the audience.

Sweifieh Village Mural  (Photo: Handout from Sara Allan)

She has been weaving sounds together into a perfect background tapestry for friends hanging out at her studio for years, long before she got offered a morning radio slot by Radio Alhara on the second Sunday of every month and then started performing live DJ sets in Amman.

Asked about the first time she remembers creating a piece of art and feeling proud of it, she smiled to herself as she recalled doing some rudimentary graffiti tags in her neighborhood starting in eighth grade, explaining, “I did not even know at the time that what I was doing was vandalism — I wanted to make my neighborhood more beautiful.” She has come a long way since them, first getting commissioned to paint a mural in Amman in 2015, and since then working on commissioned mural installations in cities across Jordan, from the Ayla resort in Aqaba all the way to village schools in Mafraq.

Jabal Amman Mural (Photo: Handout from Sara Allan)

After her early street art, Sara started producing single -issue magazines in a collage style for her family, including drawings, comics, and recipes. Her family was always encouraging — she comes from a long lineage of artists. Her Chinese grandparents are both professional artists, and her mother and two sisters also paint and work in the creative arts. Sara is a decade younger than her sisters, one of whom is a graphic designer and the other an interior designer, and she cites all of her older family members as early influences on her art. She used to visit her grandparents in China for months at a time, where her grandfather is a university art professor. She also remembers him bringing paints and art supplies every time they came to visit her family in Amman.

She draws her inspiration from everywhere, brushing off the notion that any one artist or artistic influence in her life could every outweigh another. “I am influenced by lot of normal social interactions with people who are not artists.

They unlock new emotions and you start feeling them, then you can’t verbalize them so you start to paint them. It’s a reflection process, it’s not quick. ... You have to live with the concept that you took from that place, then you understand, then you analyze them, then you feel them, then you translate them into something visual,” she explained.

Ashtray (Photo: Handout from Sara Allan)

Maybe that is her gift: to take the seemingly mundane scenes and interactions of daily life, internalize and reflect upon them deeply, and then produce something totally new and unique. Whether it is her heritage in both Jordan and China, her interest in both 19th century impressionism and modern street graffiti, or her love for both visual and musical arts, there is always a sense of collaboration in her work, a comfortable and natural melding of influence.

This notion of egalitarian influence was evident on the walls of her studio; she sat under a tapestry portraying Matisse’s La Musique during our interview, but her favorite piece was on the opposite wall, a clear aesthetic reference to the animation style of Cartoon Network’s animated classic Fairly OddParents, painted by a Jordanian teenager named Suha whom Sara had discovered only a week prior. In between them were a Monet print, several pieces by local artists including an impressionist self-portrait by Naji Al-Ali in collaboration with Ahmad Turki, a black and white drawing by Mike Sardine, and several of her own collaborative and solo pieces in various stages of completion.

In addition to her occasional commissions to paint street murals, Sara supports herself by freelancing as an animator. She has no desire to work as an employee for a company, but would like to start her own animation house someday. She already has a signature set of characters featuring rosy red patches on their cheeks, and has a backstory for how they behave and why the look the way they do.

(Photo: Handout from Sara Allan)

She also sells uniquely shaped ceramic ashtrays which she makes and paints with her own custom designs, and recently started performing live DJ sets. She has a Pioneer DDJ-400 controller, and performs at hip venues like the Spilled Milk in Jabal Amman, starting with a huge list of obscure music culled from her near-constant listening practice and then reading the crowd to zero in on set lists and transitions in the moment. While she says she doesn’t have an instantly recognizable sound yet, she noted that a lot of her sets tend to include some Asian music and feature some Asian sounds which may not be as common among other DJs in the city. She also prides herself on continuously exploring and discovering new music, culling huge lists of obscure grooves and then reading the room as she goes to zero in on the correct vibe and narrow down her set on the fly.

The best way to see Sara’s art and to keep track of when and where she’ll be performing next is to follow her on Instagram @saraa.allan. There, in addition to some very artsy selfies, you’ll find links to her ashtray store, her portfolio, and an archive of past DJ sets. You should also keep an eye out for any public art installations featuring the words “Wild Card,” her artist pseudonym, as you walk around Amman.

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