Reconnecting Arts

20/20/20 VCUarts Qatar Alumni Exhibition Celebrates two Decades of Art and Design Excellence.

In honor of the 20th Anniversary for Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, the university will celebrate the diversity and success of their alumni through a special exhibition called 20/20/20 in the Gallery at VCUarts Qatar from September 20th until October 21st.

The exhibition is curated by alumni and showcases the work of 20 alumni from all programs, demonstrating how VCUarts Qatar prepares its alumni to take the leading edge in designing the future.

We spoke with Maryam Yousuf Al-Homaid an interdisciplinary designer holding a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design and a Master in Design Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. She co-curated the show with Ahmed Oustwani.

(Fatma Al-Remaihi, using a ballpoint pen. The piece explores the strength of women).

Tell us a little about your artistic or curatorial background?

I’ve never seen or imagined myself to be a curator, but I have always noticed my ability on observing how things are displayed whether in galleries, museums, commercial venues and so forth. Of course curating is more than just how things are displayed. It’s an art project itself. You have an audience, a theme a narrative and all the other logistics to deal with and I find it super fascinating and enjoyable. This is my second time curating an actual show as my previous (and first) curatorial experience was working with Msheirb on Strange Wonders II.

(The piece by Sumam Ismail Azzam relates to the destruction of artefacts, such as the Lamassu statues in Iraq. In the painting, the creature is at ease, not concerned about the people who destroyed him, because the value of this creature’s legacy will always live on no matter what happens.)
(Hana Al-Saadi’s sculpture of a ballerina wearing an abaya raises questions about the objectification of women for the viewer. )

(This piece by Othman Khunji showcases the derived relationship between a Muslim’s vanity and the divine. The original artwork delivers a potent yet controversial message that one’s vanity can distract and consume one’s devotion to Allah.)

 

Tell us a little about the show and the significance of it?

This show documents an important milestone in the VCUArts Qatar history as it marks its 20th anniversary. It is also a celebration of the diversity of our alumni and their success in the art and design field. 20/20/20 unveils the fruitful achievements of 20 stunning VCUArts Qatar alumni in a spectrum of multidisciplinary creations under one umbrella. An umbrella that combines endless design skills that better prepares today’s artists and designers for the future.

I believe that this exhibition is not only a dedication to VCUArts Qatar for giving so much to its community, it is also a devotion to the Emir, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Father Amir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. It also mirrors Qatar’s 2030 vision in Human and Social Development; preparing its students to take on the world’s challenges and become tomorrow’s innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, and professionals.

How did you come about curating this show?

I have to credit Ahmad my colleague who initiated this idea on celebrating the Alumni and what they have achieved. He invited me to co-curate with him as we both find it enjoyable and fun to work with our talented alumni.

(This project by Abdul Rahman Anwar & Mohammad Jawad seeks to examine the intoxicating allure of social media and how even in the absence of physical or chemical stimuli, this abstract notion can envelop us and invoke a sense of addiction.)

 

What were the highlights as well as challenges curating the show?

Pushing our “hidden” alumni who are shy to display the work that they do. They realized how important it is to have the community involved after their participation. I find it so rewarding when the participant alumni thank me for pushing them to come out of their comfort zone.

I can imagine there was a huge amount of artists to filter through, what was the process/criteria in choosing the artists collectively and personally?

We sent out an open call for the artists to apply. Selected the best artworks that show the diversity of our students in terms of materials, context and innovation, that also goes well with VCUArts Qatar vision/mission and values.

What topics explored in the range of works spoke to you the most?

I always enjoy topics that talk about personal culture/lifestyle and religion. I feel like the audience can relate to that the most.

(The Golden Past by Bouthayna Al Muftah explores the Hiya Biya a night before Eid Al Adha, which is one of the main religious occurrences in Islam. At the start of the month of Thil Hija in the Islamic calendar, children would fill their baskets with soil and plant them with barley grains, wheat or garden cress seeds.)

(Faisal Mohammed who we have previously featured showcased his work, showed his project. The first man-made island in the Arabian Gulf, Green Island, was inaugurated in 1988 in the state of Kuwait. The first layer represents the contour of the island, the second holds the architectural structures, and the third contains elements added to the island for visitors to use. The fourth and final layer is the designer’s projection of the triathlon course.)

It’s been 20 years since the opening of VCU and a lot has changed over the years, how has your academic background shaped your current practice?

I owe so much back to VCUQatar. I find it very hard to disconnect myself from it as I consider it my second home. I am very happy/satisfied / fulfilled (el7amdella) with what I have studied but I am even more happy that I was taught by the most passionate and caring professors and colleagues.

What are your thoughts on the current art scene both in Doha as well as regionally?

I am super excited for it. It’s heading towards the right direction. I am enjoying all the upcoming contemporary artists that are popping up everywhere.

(DNA by Maryam Faraj Al Suwaidi shows clearly the effect of the environment on the variable where it expresses that whatever your background is, the environment around you is what will define you as a person and will have a major influence on your identity.)

Tell us more about your artistic practice or any new projects you are working on?

I am an artist/designer. I love experimenting with the idea of technology and craft all the time. I am currently working on designing products that speak about Doha and the region now.

Who are your favourite Arab artists? 

Regionally, my dad (Yousuf Ahmad) not only because of what he does but also because of his constant push and encouragement to be the best I can be.

Globally, Takashi Murakami – I enjoy his fun, colourful, multi-media artwork.

Check out the online catalogue HERE.

 


Sara Foryame is an artist and independent art curator, her main area of focus is supporting emerging artists, diversifying the gallery space and facilitating cross-cultural dialogue through art.  You can find her at www.sforyame.com