When I began this program I knew I wanted to explore contemporary narrative art, inspired by the writings of Katherine Mansfield. She wrote short stories focusing not on the traditional “monomyth” but on the stories of the inner mind, or the stream of consciousness. A more meandering form of storytelling but, in my opinion, one more truly reflective of the human condition.
I also knew that I wanted to continue working on public art projects. The interaction between art and its audience is of particular significance to me. I feel that the full implications of an artwork are only revealed through interaction and dialogue with an audience. For this reason, I have also been posting all of my work including process videos on Instagram and on a Facebook page.
This virtual exhibition “StoryLines” helped me articulate what my exploration of narrative art was all about. It also led me to the term, “simultaneous narratives”, which pretty much described the kind of art I wanted to create.
My exploration began at Arbab al Heraf, a quaint art cafe. It led to a three hour long conversation on art, poetry, the philosophies of Rumi, the unique properties of gemstones and oud guitars, which was a turning point. I realized that there were stories to be found here if I would only step out of my comfort zone to get to them.
So I became the unobtrusive observer, roaming Jeddah.. One of the things I noticed was the abundance of mosaic art.
This resulted in my first experiment using acrylic mosaic tiles and broken porcelain pieces on an mdf board. I used the knowledge from the processing class to create a short video of it to reflect the dream-like haziness of exploring, understanding and assimilating into new cultures and new surroundings.
I also experimented with water and glass paints to marble porcelain dishes and mugs. I added the touches of gold to mimic the Japanese art of mending pottery; the breakage and subsequent repair contributing to the history of the object.
I began to imagine pieces of old hand painted dishes, broken apart and their fragments collected; each fragment telling its story in a whisper. It inspired me to create these two pieces using marbled porcelain, broken apart and pieced together randomly on MDF board.
One of my classmates, Steph, suggested that this work reminded her of the works of Gaudi. My research of Gaudi’s work uncovered three important things for me:
- It led me to the work of Raymond Isidore. This has become the foundation of one of the public art projects I am planning.
I realized that Isidore and Gaudi were a story in themselves. Isidore, the humble sweeper who scavenged glass from garbage to create this unique piece of art. And Gaudi the now celebrated architect who died of neglect because he was mistaken as a beggar after being hit by a tram.
- The way Gaudi could not separate his love for architecture with his desire to use “trencadis”, I realized I could not stop painting and dedicate my time entirely to mosaic either.
I formulated my my aims and objectives for the next few months:
- Keep exploring Jeddah by visiting any and every art event regardless of the language barrier, and actively collaborate with artists.
- Research public art projects that had been conducted in the past to get ideas. Research artists who use mosaic or acrylics or create contemporary narrative art.
- put all of these ideas into practice in my studio.
So I created a list of artists and public projects that seemed interesting. I research and post my reflections on the blog. I also visited the Art Institute of Chicago, The Poetry Foundation, Jeddah art 21,39 “Refusing to be Still”, “Thirteen Clocks” at Athr Gallery, The Luminarium, attending Creative Mornings (the Jeddah Chapter) etc.
As regards my studio practice, I needed a way to combine painting with mosaic. I ended up watching the tv adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, “Alias Grace” and realized that life itself is a mosaic, a patchwork of incidents whose truth relies simply where we place those events. It made me realize that I was using the term mosaic far too literally.
I began to pour paint onto canvas. With the addition of silicone and the flare of a butane torch you could create cells amongst the paint which resembled tesserae. I began to wonder if it was even possible to create a semblance of form using this technique. Would it defy the nature of pouring paint to create an underpainting or to paint an image over a background of poured paint?
This painting is based on Alias Grace. I used a few strokes of hard molding paste before pouring paint above it.
As a practice project I decided to orchestrate a pop up art exhibition. I found an outdoor space in a penthouse, put out a call for artists and marketed the event myself. It was a great way to meet people involved in various interesting art projects.
This led me to an interesting community project in Jeddah called “The Other Story Project”. The Other Story Project conducts an exhibition called “The Other Story–Illustrated”. This January, they reached out to me to illustrate a story on alienation to be included in the final exhibition in April.
I worked on my illustration for the Other Story Project in the same vein as the rest of my current experiments.
One of the art projects that had been in the works since my visit to Arbab Al Heraf is Artisans of Love. We will be video recording interviews with artists who have influenced art in Jeddah; the project will culminate in an exhibition event.
I’m also in the midst of organizing the first of the community art projects I want to execute as part of this MA project; “The Untold Edition”. The idea behind this project is to engage the people of Karachi to build a narrative of the city. Stories of people’s most potent memories of life in this city will be gathered anonymously, written or illustrated, and exhibited at an art gallery in Karachi.
So what are the ongoing and next steps:
- I am now looking for a way to incorporate a sculpture into a painting. Like life springing out of the pages of a book. The sculpture is intended to be of air dry clay and covered in glass shards. I am using a canvassed piece of wood which will be able to hold the weight of air dry clay and glass tiles.
- If this experiment succeeds, my next question is, can a painting be animated in reverse? I’ve heard it is called 2.5D animation. I want to see if this painting-sculpture can be brought to life digitally.
- The Untold Edition is planned for July of this year. As soon as I complete it I will be working on the next one titled “Reclaiming Karachi” ; converting an abandoned public building into a mosaic landmark.
- I have also started keeping a “Visual Journal”. I’ve chosen a simple medium, color pencils, so that the process of using the visual journal is not hindered by the need to create something specific. It is a freeing and therapeutic process of letting the subconscious mind loose on a piece of paper. It’s a way to capture not only inspiration, but my own inner narrative as and when it happens.