It’s always a great achievement for an artist to be invited to publicly show their work. Congratulations on your Show.
Thank you. It is important to me that my work is shared with others, and I’m very happy to have received the support of one of Kuwait’s outstanding pioneers in art - Lucy Topalian - and for this Show - Farida Sultan - both of whom have done so much to support this generation of creative Kuwaitis. But I must correct you on one thing. I do not consider myself an artist. I’m a painter. It is for others to decide when to give me the title of ‘artist’. I realise that this is a title that must be earned through years of experience and hard thinking.
You’ve called the show ‘Kingdom of Attachments’. An unusual title, and one for which the reason is not immediately clear. How do you choose this title, and what is its significance?
Kingdom of Attachments came at the final stages of my work, when I was getting ready to prepare myself, putting all the elements together as a concept. It just came by itself calling me one day as I was working. The name ‘kingdom’ was poking me all the time, talking to me and annoying me. It seemed like a person standing next to me and trying to make me listen. So I picked up the phone and called the friend that I was sharing most of my thoughts with, and asked him what do you think of this as a title - ‘Kingdom of Attachments’. He just said to me it is great, in fact he thought it said it all.
Once I had decided on the name it all became very clear to me. It is a kingdom with all the motifs and elements attached to each other with a line, it just got complete. In this concept there are eight elements that I decided to emphasize. On the invitation I deliberately wrote a glimpse of the thought that started it all off for me before I even started drawing and getting ready for the exhibition last August. At the end of it I said ‘My Kingdom of Attachments starts with a line’... but I did not continue the whole thought because I want people to wonder about it, and let them go with their thoughts and curiosity and see where this would take them.
I notice many of the figures in your work appear to be pregnant. What are you demonstrating in using this symbolism?
What a woman goes through during her pregnancy, is the same as the mind when it is controlled by a thought. When that thought is turning around in his or her mind with a lot of effort and energy, the whole body reacts until this thought is out in the light. I feel these thoughts like a woman in labour. Once she delivers, it is same as the thought when it is out of the mind, and becomes an action in life which usually can be an attachment of what so ever. If it doesn’t - then it was not an important thought from the beginning.
Do you feel a connection with your subjects?
There is a strong connection, as I said it starts within me, I take my time wondering about it. I am in silent labour. Then it becomes a fact to me that we all as human have an attachment to many things, and we think we can’t do better or live better and we connect ourselves to so many objects, human, titles, signs and we try to create our identity... we have no relationship with the inner self it’s all about the outside attachments, even if it was an emotional state which a lot of us suffer from, at the end this is life we have to try not to be controlled by a thought in the mind as much as being with ourselves & the reality that exists.
It felt strange that I experienced a lot of awareness while I was working. I realized that for the first time in my life that I had done something and my mind was not thinking. My hand was leading me,, my whole me. I remember that I wrote some words on a piece of paper next to the canvas where I was painting. I wrote ‘MY HAND IS IN CONTROL NOW AND MY MIND IS FOLLOWING’. It was an amazing time. I was silent and observing the movement.
How would you introduce your work to people when they see it for the first time? Do you even believe an introduction is necessary, or are there elements within your work that are deliberately included to give a key for the viewer to interpret your pieces?
Usually I don’t like to go deep in my explanation, I like watching and listening to people’s wonder. I know my work might seem very simple, it might be, but for me it goes beyond that, it is deeper than what you see. there are layers of not only colours but also thoughts and feelings. I have realized that, for some people, the minute they see my work they know it could only be mine. I heard it from so many that I always present something different and strange. Maybe this is true, the difficulty for me can sometimes be in explaining how and why. There are few of them that they know it from the first time they lay their eyes upon the work...and they just smile with a salute.
How do you feel your work has changed since your first show four years ago?
Sure it has changed, because I have changed. This is part of my self-development; my feelings have progressed with me. I do have a good feeling about the future and I like the way I am moving on. I wouldn’t like to reach the top very fast, my style is to make it slow and effective. I already have an idea for my next exhibition and it’s also going to be different in concept and technique, and most probably can be related to Kingdom of Attachment.
I hope for the best always to reach the souls and minds of others and deliver the right message to lead me and others to become better humans. What I am working on is not only mine, it’s ours. That’s why we exhibit, not to hear the compliments, but more to share the beauty of the feeling and the creation.
Apart from painting, how else do you manage to express yourself as a contemporary artist?
By reading and writing. I admire lot of philosophy and always search for books, not only the new books, I like to follow the old to reach the new. Besides that I like to sew. I know I might seem very old like the granny relaxing opposite the TV and sewing a cushion or a blanket, but it gives my mind time to flow.
Would you like to give us your view on contemporary art in Kuwait?
Well I hope and wish that it will develop in the sense of knowledge and ability. I know that we have a new generation of young minds, if we encourage them to move forward, they can do a lot to this country, but still it’s an individual effort. I pray that we can one day reach to the standard that existed here in the 70s and early 80s when Kuwait was a pioneer in art in the region.
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #11 March 09