As Malja launch their first ever open-call concept exhibition, we speak to creative curator Ramah Al Husseini
Time Out Bahrain staff
As she speaks, Saudi painter Ramah Al Husseini’s enthusiasm and passion for art is tangible. It’s clear she loves her chosen path as an artist, freelance curator and former gallery owner, and it’s clear she wants to encourage others to fulfil their potential and do the same. That’s why she’s helping Malja run this new exhibition called ‘Malja Call Out’ which is calling any and all interested artists to submit some work (by August 15) and potentially get chance to showcase their art to Bahrain. To understand more about what Ramah is looking for, as she’s curating this showcase, we caught up with her to talk about concepts, street art and Pablo Picasso.
So what exactly is an open concept exhibition?
Basically it’s an open call and it’s open to anyone – upcoming, well known, people who have never done this before. It’s supposed to encourage artists. Also it’s a platform for them to meet each other. It’s always good to see what’s out there.
Why did you decide to do this?
Because I truly believe, like any other business or company, you need to know the right kind of people to go ahead. It’s the same thing in the art world. You keep seeing the same artists in the exhibitions and the galleries. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a reason why – they’re really talented. But once in a while we really need to look at other artists. We need to give them a chance.
Most of them might not be that great but you can see potential. And by doing this exhibition you give them the inspiration to keep going forward and working more.
It’s the same for the famous artists to see what’s out there and see there’s something new and different.
What kind of people would you like to see submit their work? The only important thing about this is the concept of the work. I need to have a concept. Don’t just tell me ‘Oh because I felt like it’ or ‘I like to draw horses so I drew a horse’. Art shocks people – it makes you think, it makes you angry, it makes you happy. That’s what I’m looking for.
To me, at least, there has to be a point. Make me think, move me, make me laugh. Whatever you’re good at, whatever is important to you and you want to talk about it through your work, that’s great. It’s not about if the artwork is beautiful, amazing or attractive. You can look at a blank canvas but the description and meaning could be mind-blowing.
What kind of mediums are you looking for? Anything. It could be film, it could be music, it could be poetry. If you even want to do a live performance, by all means, I encourage it. The more unique and different the medium that’s even better. The whole point of this open call is to look for something new and different. Of course we want the things we’re used to like drawing and painting, but I also encourage the new forms. As long as your concept is strong, that’s it.
What do you explore in your own art works? I talk about subjects that really matter to me whether it’s personal or general. I’m from Saudi so a lot of my work is about being a woman in the Arab culture. I’m working on a personal series about life and death now because I had a couple of relatives that passed away recently.
What kind of artists inspire you? I’m really into murals and wall art. It’s what inspires me now – the crazy size and the detailed work. Then you realise most of these people do it for the sake of. It’s so amazing the work they put into it – the time, the effort, the detail, and then for all they know it could be gone the next day. The concept of that blows my mind.
So that’s what keeps me motivated, keeps me grounded let’s say. Some people these days price their work ridiculously high. Granted it’s amazing, but let’s calm down, let’s take a step back. That’s the type of people that inspire me now.
Then obviously you have Picasso and all the great artists that inspire me because of the work and how long they’ve been working as artists. If you look at their art, and the different stages they went through, you can see the changes and the struggle. It encourages me to think it’s okay if you change your work, it’s okay if you dabble in something new, it’s okay if you completely let go of something.
I get inspired not by the person let’s say but how they developed, what they went through, how they played in the history of art, the changes they made, the stories they told through their work.
What encouragement would you give to first-timers wanting to submit their work for the exhibition? They have nothing to lose. If they submit their work and they got rejected let’s say – nothing changed. But if they submit and they get accepted then they get the chance to show their work and be among other artists and meet potential buyers, meet other artists, meet clients. Who knows – maybe art curators will be there and be interested because part of the job of a curator is to see potential in people. Or, at least to me, it’s to be somewhat of an advisor to say ‘okay you have potential here, you should continue here.’ So you never know – beginners have nothing to lose, they should do it. But just keep in mind that concept is very, very important.
What else do you want to say to people who are thinking of entering this month? The whole point of this isn’t to sell – selling is a plus. So don’t come into this thinking if you don’t sell then it wasn’t worth it. You’ll get that self satisfaction that you got the chance to showcase your work, you got to meet other people, you got to talk about your work. People should put more effort into that than trying to make their work look good to sell it. People should think ‘Does this painting represent me? Does this painting represent my idea, my concept well?’
Not that I don’t try to make my paintings pretty but I do it for a different reason. I want to attract people to start talking about this topic. When I grab the attention of the viewer, then they notice the topic. For the Malja Call Out exhibition, artists can submit up to five pieces of work that best represents them by August 15. Visit www.maljabahrain.com to download the submission form. The exhibition opens to the public on September 5 and runs for two months. Malja, Amwaj Islands (3232 3000).