An exhibition, ‘Grey Times’ running until July 24 at the Fire Station’s Garage Gallery is a collective display of the works of artists who took part in Fire Station’s latest Artist in Residence programme, and includes artwork created by alumni and faculty from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar), a Qatar Foundation partner.
Amena al-Yousef, Ebtesam al-Hothi, Hadeer Omar, Hind al-Saad, Latifa al-Kuwari, Majdulin Nasrallah, Mariam Rafehi, Maysaa Almumin, Naila al-Thani and Noor Alshebani used a variety of media platforms including paintings, etchings, sculptures, audio-visuals, augmented reality and installations to explore topics as diverse as identity, confinement, dreams, memories, the environment, displacement, and human responses – through the lens of the unprecedented changes that the pandemic has wrought on mankind.
A full-size hammock fashioned out of barbed wire, a walk-in booth that uses over 60 pillows and audio-visuals to re-create the immersive experience associated with dreams, sculptures incorporating sand collected from different locations in Qatar, a multimedia installation of naturally occurring pigments, and images that portray the transformation of suffering into power, are just a few of the artworks that bring the two conceptual strands of the exhibition – ‘A Look Inside’, and ‘A Look Outside’ – to life.
One of the exhibits, an interactive metal cage designed by artist and VCUarts Qatar instructor Majdulin Nasrallah, reflects the contrasting emotions of liberation and confinement that humans in different parts of the world face due to the transitory nature of political borders, and human migration or displacement. Nasrallah graduated from VCUarts Qatar in 2017 with a BFA in Interior Design and in 2019 with an MFA in Design Studies. “Mohasir-Mohasar’, which translates as ‘Trapper-Trapped’ or ‘Besieger-Besieged’ can be interpreted in many ways,” says Nasrallah, as she explains her work. “It is a metaphor for a state of siege, with the bars of the cage protruding both outward and inward, allowing two people to have a seated conversation, but with the barrier of the metal bars separating them.”
For Alshebani, a VCUarts Qatar Painting+Printmaking alumna and multidisciplinary artist who draws inspiration from Islamic patterns and symbols, the uncertainty that the pandemic brought with it reminded her of a very personal journey – motherhood.
“My display, titled ‘Pages’, mirrors the feeling of ambiguity and concern that I experienced on becoming a mother,” says Alshebani, a mother of two. “When I knew I was pregnant, I was delighted; but I was also awash with doubt at my abilities to cope, and my future. To combat that feeling, I started journaling my thoughts, writing them down in scraps of paper. I wrote them in concentric circles, to show that by revolving around my faith – and not losing my focus on it – I could surmount any challenge. And rather than throw them away, I saved the pieces of paper, and fashioned them into this piece of art.”
‘Grey Times’ is curated by Dr Bahaa Abudaya and Saida al-Khulaifi.
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