Doha: While the negative impacts of the COVID-19 have rippled through various sectors, the pandemic has failed to impede artists’ passion for art production, further fuelling their creativity to express their thoughts and personal experiences of the health crisis in many different ways.
Prolific art creation is very much evident within Qatar’s art community which can be witnessed in the latest crowd-sourced art initiative of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum (FBQ Museum) aptly dubbed “Artists in the time of COVID-19”, that the sheer number of submissions prompted the organisers to present the exhibition in three parts in the next three months, the first of which was recently launched at the museum.
The artworks represent the distinct views of a cross-section of the art community in the country, with artists coming from different age groups, diverse backgrounds, and varied artistic practices using a wide variety of media in their works, some of which were born by the pandemic.
The artworks reveal how art makes a potent channel to convey the artists’ fears and anxieties of the present as well as their hopes and dreams for a better future following these challenging times.
To many of the artists, their creations were a cathartic experience during a time of solitude caused by inevitable physical distancing. To art lovers, they serve as a stark reminder of both the positive and negative effects of the pandemic as well as an inspiration to live with it in the new normal.
Hassan AlSalat, an artist who had been exposed to art at a young age and learned painting mostly from his mother who is an artist herself, renders a powerful depiction of the heroes of the pandemic in his two digital prints.
“‘Scars of humanity’ and ‘They are not alone’ are what we see in the era of COVID-19, the nurses’ suffering and their fatigue, but there is always a message that we are with them at these times,” said AlSalat in a statement.
“They are not alone” by Hassan AlSalat.
Award-winning Filipino artist Michael Conjusta, on the other hand, salutes all the front-liners and unsung heroes who are joining hands in the battle against the pandemic in a colourful and visually striking acrylic painting dubbed “COVID-19 Heroes.”
Using nonsurgical masks as centrepiece, seasoned artist Ara Azad expresses his interpretation of the current COVID-19 situation in a painting called “Camouflage.”
Fouz Saif brilliantly captures the reality of living under the pandemic in a realist painting of an old man who wears a face mask while listening to an old radio. She said that she specifically chose the old man as the subject who is at higher risk during the pandemic and that the artwork expresses the extent of the man’s fear to be infected and his urge to listen to the daily news.
A chemical engineer, an artist and a mother of two, Basma Abouzeid is showcasing “Wishing the coronavirus pandemic ends soon” which depicts a little girl wearing a face mask with her stuffed toys also wearing the same. She said the painting expresses children’s feelings towards what’s happening around them at this time including the quarantine and its consequences.
“COVID-19 Heroes” by Michael Conjusta.
Engineering student Rahma Walid Abdel Fattah sketched two comic strips on the pandemic, one of which depicts the condition of school or university students while the other highlights the situation of different people in Ramadan at the time of the pandemic as they cope with the new normal.
Qatari artist and VCUArts Qatar graduate Noof Al-Theyab’s photograph depicts a woman wearing a face mask with a hand-stitched verse from the Holy Qur’an which is a source of inspiration during these uncertain times. The work is titled “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector and on Allah let the Believers put their trust.”
The piece “Leap Year 2020” by Gabriel Diaz Romero implies a number of meanings taken into context the current pandemic. He uses red permanent marker on a plastic globe to indicate the scope of the havoc wreaked by the pandemic which has gripped the world.
Vanessa Almacen explores the benefits more than the disadvantages of staying home during this time encapsulated in a short video she made lucidly titled “Safe at Home.”
Ten-year-old American artist Amelia Gattouchi exudes positive outlook amid the crisis in her two gouache-on-paper artworks titled “Our future is in our hands” and “The world is in our hands.”
A unique piece on show is Naseema Shukoor’s mosaic portrait of a woman looking into the distance. The piece made up of around 5,000 black-and-white textile buttons is dubbed “Looking into the future.”
The 60 artworks comprising paintings, digital prints, photography, installations, videos, and mixed media, among others can be viewed at FBQ Museum’s The White Majlis until October 3. The second and third parts of the exhibition are scheduled to be held from October 9 to November 7 and from November 13 to December 12.
Other galleries in Qatar have also presented exhibitions of works inspired by the pandemic such as the online exhibits organised by Al Markhiya Gallery including solo exhibitions “Social Distancing” featuring works by Mubarak Al Thani, “The Quarantine Diaries” showcasing pieces by Sara Al Buainain, and “Radiant Darkness” displaying paintings by Salim Mathkour.
What the artists have accomplished in the time of this pandemic shows that the destructive force of a crisis can be harnessed into a creative power not only capable of helping themselves deal with the difficult situation but also impacting others in the process, hopefully in a positive way.