Untitled, 1980, represents a fantastical cityscape featuring mysterious mermaid-like female forms and an overarching giant eye located in the center of the upper half of the composition. The eyelids are painted in flamingo pink, while the eyelashes are tinted olive green with smooth, broad brushstrokes. The towering eye looks over the entire city and its dwellers. Its pupil emits a beam of translucent white light that hones in on a female form dressed in an ornate armor-like cape and a seashell-like crown. The female seems to melt into an eel-like creature painted in olive green. We see a giant seashell beside her, floating in still waters, rendered in petroleum blue.
Other female forms, with long, fishtail-like hair, slender silhouettes, and voluptuous breasts stand side-by-side on the right side of the painting’s composition. To the left, a female bust with a fish-like body swims in the same waters. Her face is adorned in heavy makeup, and her dark brown hair extends into a sea serpent and a vertical pole upon which lays a seemingly nude female form.
In the background, the imaginary city’s buildings stand against a clear sky, painted in monochromatic baby blue. The city’s architecture, painted in white and pastel pink, is represented through its tall ornate buildings, pointed towers and arabesque arches. Some buildings are flanked with pillars representing nude female forms.
Seraphim scatters facial profiles throughout the artwork, and depicts pear-shaped forms on female bodies, namely re-placing the womb. In particular, one large pear-shaped painted in bright red, seems bleeding.
In her typical surreal style, Seraphim expresses her imagination freely, as if peering into her own subconscious. The painting’s free-flowing lines, layered brushstrokes, translucent colors and cryptic elements invite introspection. The use of complementary colors such as green and saturated pink brings about a serene, dreamlike feel that further facilitates meditative contemplation. “The images in my paintings come from deep within me: they are surreal and unexplainable,” Seraphim states (8). Unlike many of her contemporary Palestinian artists whose art was overtly political, Seraphim used her art as a medium for self-discovery and revelation.
Untitled, 1980, is rife with symbolic imagery. The eye, a common symbol in surreal art, may denote truth, an “all-seeing” window to the inner soul. In fact, it is the focal point of the composition. Within the painting, ‘the eye’ is omnipresent; it is oversized, located in the center of the painting with no distracting details, set against a monochromatic backdrop.
Furthermore, the eye could allude to female sexual anatomy, as would the seashells and the womb-like pear shapes. Indeed, the artist frequently uses allegories pertaining to female sexuality. Heavily influenced by feminism, she has celebrated the female form and explored femininity through her art. In Untitled,1980, Seraphim’s woman morphs into a fish, and vice versa, inviting viewers to reflect on women’s physical and emotional complexity. The female’s luscious lips, ample breasts, long hair and heavy makeup denote her sensuality. While the highly-detailed execution denotes her delicate, sensitive nature.
Untitled, 1980, also underscores the female’s power. Indeed, the fish alludes to water which is the origin of life. And, the sea serpent is a symbol of strength and healing. The female forms, buildings’ pillars, suggest women’s roles as guardians and protectors of households. Certainly, the woman’s armor and crown refer to the “woman-warrior” archetype. In fact, the choice of the mermaid itself symbolizes the many layers of femininity: while mermaids are celebrated for their beauty, they are also feared for their potentially lethal song.
The entrancing utopia created by Seraphim seems to be in continuous flux, perhaps denoting an ever-changing state of being. The contrast between the smooth curved lines, and sharp-edged vertical ones, and the dark against light colors enhances the dynamic nature of such a dense atmosphere. By allowing free reign to her imagination, Seraphim creates her own utopian world where femininity and sensitivity are celebrated as empowering qualities and where change is the only constant.
signed and dated in English front lower right