By Nushrat Anjum
Images courtesy of Qatar Museums
Most of us love art, and enjoy interpreting its meaning when we visit galleries or art spaces. Art has been used as a vehicle for expressing our opinions for years. Iconic guerrilla street artist Banksy for example uses art to protest and raise awareness, making it easier to tackle those uncomfortable political questions that we don’t know how to answer. In the 1960s and 70s, Yoko Ono used performance art to protest against the Vietnam War. Whether in poster form, or as conceptual or performance art and installations, there’s no doubt that art has impact. It can also portray solidarity and uplift a nation’s morale.
Qatar Museums recently appointed local artists to showcase their work at The Fire Station in a message of solidarity with Qatar amidst the ongoing GCC crisis on the eve of 100 days of the blockade. The artists got a chance to make murals that represented their take on the blockade. The outcome? Beautiful, thoughtful pieces of art. Displayed outside gallery at The Fire Station, each mural reflects the individual artist’s take on the blockade. ILQ recently got a chance to interview three of the artists -- Dimitrije Bugarski, Ali Al Kuwari, and Thamer Al Dossari to learn more on their perspectives of the blockade.
ILQ: Tell us a bit about yourself and your work as an artist?
Bugarski: I started with drawing and painting very young, before starting school. I got involved in street art in high school -- but very shortly, only to pick it up again here in Qatar. Even though I try to express myself through different forms of art, street art gives me the most excitement.
Al Kuwari: I started as an artist in 1993 when I took courses at the Doha Youth Center and learned the fundamentals of art. I was passionate about realistic drawing; then, I started exploring other art forms such as abstract surrealism and mixed-media.
Al Dossari: I’m now 30 years-old, and I started doing my artwork when I was 15 years-old. As a sculptor and fine artist , I've tried several arts like calligraphy and oil painting, but I really enjoy graffiti. I’ve earned awards for my work in sculpture and ceramic art, and have a lot of memorable work in Qatar -- especially in Katara, Qatar Foundation, The Pearl-Qatar, and Hamad International Airport. I’ve represented Qatar in the UAE as calligrapher where I use the Montblanc calligraphy pen. I’ve also designed signature artwork for the Qatar Total Open women’s tennis championships in 2015.
ILQ: What are your thoughts on art as a vehicle for dialogue on global issues?
Bugarski: Art has always been a form of connecting people, as it breaks the language barrier or any other kind of barriers -- it’s a great communication tool.
Al Kuwari: Art is the suitable way to communicate and express thoughts and opinions both locally and globally.
Al Dossari: It's the best and smartest artists who can create the correct message at the right time and place.
(Artwork by Dimitrije Bugarski. Photo credit: Qatar Museums)
ILQ: Is your art a political statement in the 100 Days of the Blockade exhibit and, if so, what’s the message behind it?
Bugarski: I never tend to involve myself in politics, nor am I informed enough to discuss it. However, living here gave me an insight on how this situation [the GCC crisis] was handled, what kind of reaction people had, and the solidarity among people [here in Qatar]. That’s what I tried to express and to contribute and give support to the country and people around me.
Al Kuwari: The idea behind it is, whoever lives on the ground of Qatar -- no matter what religion, culture, or background they come from, they stand together united to protect this country and express their love and loyalty.
ILQ: From concept to creation, walk us through the journey of making your submission for this exhibition.
Bugarski: As we were choosing our locations for the murals, the tower [in The Fire Station courtyard] was the ultimate spot for me -- and I’m very grateful that I got a chance to leave my mark on it. As it’s vertical, this factored into the sketch I was preparing and it came [together] very quickly. It was inspired by, as I mentioned earlier, how this situation was handled at the top in Qatar -- and that’s what I wanted to show in my piece, including all the positive words that were related to these last few months. The execution of the piece was challenging as there were five days to finish such a big wall -- but that’s what drives [an] artist and enhances the experience.
Al Kuwari: The concept helped me to express the idea of the blockade, and I’ve chosen a very dominant colour to catch people’s interest. It was my way of of bringing people’s attention to my work and to the importance of unity between us and to all who live in this country.
Al Dossari: Normally most of my artwork doesn't include colours, but I needed the colour red to get as much attention to the wall from the public. I choose this shade after staring at the ambulance truck [at The Fire Station]. After staring at it for five days I couldn’t think of any other colour than red. The hands as the focal point, to me, was the best idea because they have their own language and speak without words.
(Artwork by Ali Al Kuwari. Photo credit: Qatar Museums)
ILQ: Tell us why you decided to feature your artwork as part of this exhibition.
Bugarski: As I said, I wanted to give support [to Qatar] and the best way to do it is through what I do the best -- and that’s art. I was honoured to be included in such a movement.
Al Kuwari: It was a great opportunity for me to display this artwork on a larger scale, with more exposure.
Al Dossari: I have a message, and I was looking for the best place to show my message and [at the] The Fire Station couldn't be better .
ILQ: What does it mean to you to be able to portray your art in solidarity with Qatar?
Bugarski: It means I am part of this community...
Al Kuwari: I was fortunate enough and happy to express my solidarity with my country using the passion that I really love, which is art.
Al Dossari: It means a lot to me as Thamer from Qatar -- even ahead of myself as Thamer the artist. This is the minimum we can do for Qatar, we give the best thing that we have and that we are good at, which is art.
What are your thoughts on using art as a medium to express different perspectives? Let us know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to like and share -- it keeps us going!
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