Distracted by the temporary, because the permanent frightens me.

Salwa Ali

Yes, the title sound a little dramatic, but by the end of this post I’m pretty sure it’ll make sense to you.

When it comes to listing my inspiration, its tough deciding. Most times I find that I have already executed an art piece, without any research done. In a world where social media is always at our finger tips, scrolling down your instagram feed is a form of constant inspiration. Whether you were looking for it or not, by seeing art from all around the world at your finger tips, you are probably going to have some of your own ideas by the end of the feed. With your own touch, and a mix of everyone else’s, everyone plays a role at being part of your inspiration.

For that reason, for my last project, I forced myself to find inspiration that I would not come across my instagram. I went back to art history to see what inspired the ones before us. It was then when I finally read about Frida Kahlo. We’ve all seen her face, we all noticed the unibrow but most of us don’t know what inspired Frida Kahlo’s paintings. At least I didn’t until I did some research. Kahlo had come across an injury during her medical studies. After being bedridden, her mother had left her a canvas to keep her entertained, letting loose the prodigy we know today. What inspired Frida most was herself, as she found herself often alone, hence the self portraits. However, with the use of dramatic symbolism & bright colors, the influence of her Mexican culture was very apparent. Perhaps an unintentional inspiration?

The purpose of Frida’s introduction was to lead you to the following. At times regardless of what you think inspires you, there is always an extra element in your art that you may have not deliberately added. Ideas that you have overthought, or scenarios that you have lived over and over always find their way to your canvas, it’s inevitable.

Salwa Ali

On this last project, the objective was to self reflect. Digging deep often gets uncomfortable, however, is often necessary to create ‘good’ art.  Being born & raised in Saudi Arabia everything I am today is a product of that. Regardless of how attached I may be to this land, deep down I know I love Pakistan just as much, even if I may not relate to it in the same way. However, without the mix of culture I am often exposed to, I wouldn’t know what made me different. Nonetheless, different can often become a little tricky..

When i’m in Jeddah, my life at home, the way my parents raised me & many other things differs me from my Saudi friends. On the other hand, when I’m in Pakistan, the way I’ve grown up around arabs, my habits, my accent, even the way I think is different to those who live there. So in conclusion, when I’m in both places, I don’t perfectly fit in in either. At times I don’t know which place to call ‘home’. As cliche as this sounds, my heart says Jeddah but my mind forces me to digest it’s Pakistan.

Salwa Ali

The reason I say ‘forces’ is not because I don’t want to call it home, but rather having always seen it as a temporary home, when we visit family is just what I got used to. However, the truth is Jeddah is what is temporary, & heading back to Pakistan is just a matter of time. Due to legal regulations, the moment my father retires, he will no longer have a company sponsoring him here in Jeddah, hence our ticket back ‘home’.

For that reason, being loss between cultures often acts as an extra tone of paint on my canvas. Often it is the only shade on my canvas.

For 20 plus years, I’ve heard my father tell me to be grateful for the time we’ve got to spend here. Grateful for the lifestyle, & lessons we’ve learned, that we may or may not have learned back home. However, I find myself constantly fearing the day we have to go back. The day we actually have to deal with the political situations of the country, rather than just having to read them in a news paper. Until then I am in denial, I am going around in circles, keeping myself distracted by the temporary, because the permanent frightens me.

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Photographs dated February 2015.

Islamic Art with Adam Williamson

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Artist Adam Williamson of East London, told us about Islamic art and how he is currently teaching it at King’s College. He showed us several films of how he interprets those same Islamic carvings into performances in front of a live audience! That was a great eye opener for me; seeing how one artwork or practice can take so many different shapes depending on medium and context.

“Visualising the same art piece through different mediums can give an entirely new meaning and therefore be presented to a vast audience” – Adam Williamson

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For that reason, even for an amateur artist like myself, I now find myself on a path between photography and live sketching. Having a passion for both, when my ideas begin to flow, my instant reaction is to start to sketch. Only once I am satisfied, do I turn my sketches into reality by actually taking pictures of what I had originally thought of using live objects. This gives me the margin to make mistakes while I am still sketching. Once all my mistakes fit in perfectly, I capture them through my camera’s lens. However there are times I prefer to do the opposite, and take much more spontaneous photographs. If I come across something that intrigues me, I often repeat the same stages, only this time, backwards.

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Adam emphasised on how important it is to constantly keep learning new skills to create a new platform. Watch the rest of it his tips here starting at 1m:
Enjoy!

 http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-2-meeting-artists

 

Critical Thinking @ Tate St. Ives

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At our critical thinking workshop at Tate St Ives, things took quite a turn for me! Artist Greg Humphries completely caught me off guard when he asked me not only to sketch the person sitting next to me in under 30 seconds, but to use my opposite hand to do so! Forget about drawing, even gripping the pencil in my left hand was quite a challenge. Errors were easy to make and with only 30 seconds to spare, there wasn’t any time to erase my mistakes!

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It is quite intriguing to notice that when you draw with your comfortable hand, what you plan in your mind isn’t what usually shows up on paper. However that was absolutely not the case with my left hand. With the pressure of Greg’s voice counting down every second and constantly having to re-grip my pencil, what showed up on my sheet of paper was not even close to what I imagined in my mind… It was better.

The objective of the workshop was for us to realize the importance of mistakes. Struggling to stay comfortable with art is probably the first mistake an aspiring artist can make, and then removing all the evidence of past errors the second.

By the end of the workshop I openly confessed to Greg how from that day onwards I was going to start sketching, however uncomfortably, with my left hand. I had finally become comfortable with my own mistakes and vowed to try and never be ashamed of them again. He looked right at me, smiled and told me: “You shall go a very long way in life.” Just thinking back to that brings me goose bumps. The fact that someone so successful can give an amateur artist like me such great hope in just a couple of seconds.

Having been exposed to so many different artists and styles of art, such as Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, and Tracey Emin and then visiting artists all over East London, seeing the different ways they express themselves through their art, really proved to me how there isn’t just one path for an artist to take. It helped give me an insight into new ways of looking at art. When you look at an artwork, it may not mean anything to you, but once you learn about the artist’s background, all the elements in their art begin to make sense.

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Watch the excerpts of the workshop here!
http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

Graffiti; Value Creativity

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Thanks to Offscreen Expeditions, I was fortunate enough to benefit from workshops I could not complete over years in Saudi Arabia! One of my favourites was located in what seemed the artsiest part of London, the East. With the help of MCP & Mark ‘Batlow’ we were given a street art workshop for starters. From the basics of stencilling, inverting images, down to changing caps for different strokes of the spray.

Below is an excerpt of the many ways we were taught to value creativity. Click on this link to watch the film

http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

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Towards the end of the workshop most of us had finally learned how to handle a spray can!

There was no stopping us.

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At first when I was handed the itinerary for the expedition, this was the one workshop I was looking forward to least, as it was too out of my comfort zone. However, once the workshop came to an end I realised how important it really is to step out of your comfort zone.

After a successful workshop, we had transformed East London!

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The Language of Geometry

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On my last trip to London, I was fortunate enough to get very useful advice from all the artists I met. A personal favourite artists of mine Mark B, also known as MisterBatlow , emphasised on how an artists must experiment. Experiment until you’re comfortable to mix and make something you’re own. For that reason I try to attend every workshop possible, so I know what I enjoy & what may be a challenge for me.
One method of drawing that needs an extreme amount of concentration & an insanely steady hand is Geometry Designing. I had never appreciated it until I had to do it myself. On my last visit to the 21,39 Gallery I came across an installation by artist Dana Awartani. This was the first time I really enjoyed looking at geometry.

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21,39 Gallery, Installation by Dana Awartani

Later this Ramadan I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop with Awartani on the Language of Geometry. She showed us how the simplest grids, could create the most detailed pieces. After numerous tries and errors I was able to create the following drafts.

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After 25 minutes of sketching, these were just grids..

My over all experience of the workshop was quite a successful one however. I may not be able to master the craft of geometrical designs, however I did learn to respect this type of art. Kudos to artists that have the patience, skill & steady hand for such a delicate process. Hope one day I too could master it.