Time Out jumps on the art bus and takes a culture cruise around Bahrain to find the artistic highlights of the island
Melissa Van Maasdyk
We all react to art on some level; perhaps it’s simply that a certain combination of colours or a scene appeals, but often an artwork will resonate on a deeper level. If you’ve ever wondered about the process behind an impactful piece or the person who has managed to stir something inside you through paint and paper, then this month’s Art House is your chance to get some answers.
In its second year, Art House is a 10-day event organised by voluntary arts group the Culture Vultures in which artists across Bahrain open their studios to the public, offering a rare opportunity to see them at work and chat about the creative process.
‘I think you can tell an lot about an artist from the place they work,’ says Deborah Lanyon, a musician with an MBA in art management, who is responsible for the group’s PR.
She continues: ‘The artist Klee, for example, had a meticulously organised studio with lines of paint in graded colours, and his art is all about the minutae of form, while Picasso had a more relaxed approach, and this reflects in the deconstruction of form in his work. So it’s fascinating to view art in the place it was made and see how the two relate.’
The Culture Vultures began as an informal group, but has since grown to approach a professional arts management organisation, which probably has to do with the fact that its five members all previously worked professionally. The slick guidebook was designed by graphic designer Myrna Issa, who previously worked in advertising; logistics is in the hands of Tracey Collins, who has a background in management, and Lilia Ayari and Gabriella Canseco applied their extensive experience in art curation (for Unesco in France and in Mexico respectively) to pulling together this unique island-wide exhibition.
But the actual idea for Art House was that of American artist Seana Mallen, who has participated in similar events in San Francisco, London and Washington. It’s a wonderful experience for art-lovers and artists alike, she says. ‘Being an artist is quite a solitary pursuit, and it’s lovely to be able to show your work in a casual working environment and to see how people relate to it.’
Bahraini artist Abbas Almosawi concurs. ‘Art appreciators are very important to us as artists,’ he says, ‘because if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have the motivation to create something beautiful; so I find having people in my studio gratifying and inspiring.’ Conversely, Brit artist Serena Stevens believes that visiting an artist’s studio encourages creativity in the viewer. ‘It’s one thing going to a class, but I think seeing individuals working in their own environment takes the fear out of things. Some people might think, “I don’t have the space,” but you don’t need a warehouse; everyone can work with what they’ve got.’
But whether looking for something to ignite your creativity or you just want to look at art from a different angle, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to visit what Almosawi describes as ‘the sacred place of the artist’ – and therefore likely to be very good for the soul.
Art House runs from May 14-23 during the following hours: Thu 14, Fri 15, Sat 16, 4pm-9pm Mon 18, Tue 19, Wed 20, 9am-1pm and 4-9pm Thu 21, Fri 22, Sat 23, 4pm-9pm
Because a number of the studios are off the main drag, the Culture Vultures have introduced three bus tours, taking in some of the farther flung studios (see map over the page for details). Bus trips depart from Sar Cinema and run from 8am-1pm. BD6 per person. Book at the Good Life Gallery, Budaiya Rd.
Exhbition at the Banyan Tree
Apart from the open studios, there will be an exhibition at the Banyan Tree Resort (a key sponsor of the event) from May 11-23, featuring a piece by each of the artists.
Arthouse has a strong kids’ focus with a number of workshops on offer, as well as a passport (available from all studios), with pictures and spaces for the artists to stamp or sign, thus making art education fun. See Kids listings on p58 for workshop details. 1 Abbas Almosawi Multimedia artworks. ‘I use a range of materials in my work, including oils, acrylic, papyrus and rice paper on canvas. Lately I have also been using flower stems and different varieties of textiles and accessories to enhance my work. My style is influenced by the richness of this country’s history and Islamic culture, and I work a great deal in Arabic calligraphy, which is generally incorporated into my paintings, but the past is brought firmly into the present through contemporary artistic techniques. During the Art House week, people will see how each piece is shaped and formed, and I will be also be showing a biographical film directed by Dennis O’Hare and produced by Yousif Alzeera, which tracks my development as an artist from childhood to the present day.’
2 Abbas Yousif Calligraphy, painting, printmaking.
3 Abd Shaheed Khamdan Paintings and sculptures incorporating Arabic calligraphy.
4 Abdul Kareem Al Bosta Abstract paintings.
5 Ali Al Mahmeed Sculptures in marble and wood.
6 Andrea Sibilla Mixed-media still lifes.
7 Arthur D’Souza Artworks combining film positives with coloured paper.
8 Fuad Ali Albinfalah Abstract sculptures in marble and wood. ‘My sculptures in marble are largely a product of my imagination – I don’t prepare them as drawings first, but work directly with the raw materials. As I work, fluid sculptures emerge from the solid stone that bring together infinite geometric possibilities with different faces, each angle telling a different story. My wood sculptures on the other hand accentuate the splendour of Arabic calligraphy and culture.’
9 Haifa Al Musawi Decorative ceramics and poetry on canvas
10 Hamed Al Bosta Multimedia artworks. ‘My work has definitely been influenced by my father [artist Abdulkareem Al Bosta] because we create in the same space and, like him, I enjoy working in mixed media, choosing my materials depending on the subject. But when people visit our studio during Art House and see our work displayed side by side, they’ll notice that there are natural, healthy differences in our work, reflecting the fact that two distinct artistic souls are shining through on the canvas.
My studio is a little bit wild, encompassing most of my house and even the roof, but when people drop by, they’ll probably find me outdoors, as these days I like to work in the open air making use of natural light. I think Art House is a great alternative to the formality of a gallery and a nice opportunity for people to experience the dynamics of the artist’s working environment.’
11 Hussain Fateel Calligraphy on paper and canvas using various materials.
12 Isabel Hamza Still lifes and seascapes in oil on canvas.
13 Jaafar Al Oraibi Abstract painting and etching.
14 Jabbar Al Ghadban Paintings and graphic art.
15 Khalil Hammad Black and white photographic portraits.
16 Loredana Mantello Documentary and graphic photography ‘I have a preference for documentary and reportage photography, usually in black and white. But my Art House exhibition will also feature a collection of colour photographs with a strong graphic element entitled ‘In Search of Order’, which emerged from a workshop I did with Camille Zakharia.
The workshop’s focus was to capture Bahrain’s rapidly changing landscape, and as I drove through the confusion, diversions, dust and noise, I began to hunger for completion and the restoration of calm, and it is this longed-for emergence of order that I have tried to capture. Maybe this is a reflection of my inner need and desire for order in my own life.’
17 Mahdi Al Bannai Ceramic and marble sculptures Bahrain Arts Society.
18 Manuella Mavromichalis Intuitive paintings reflecting the artist’s spiritual journey.
19 Marianne Pasmans Abstract and figurative paintings.
20 Nadine AlShaikh Colourful paintings on canvas.
21 Dr Samia Engineer Feminist mixed-media art.
22 Sayed Hassan Al Saari Contemporary paintings.
23 Seana Mallen Paintings and collages. ‘I respond to what I see, rather than inventing from my imagination, and try to capture some of the colour, quirkiness, humour and joy in the world around me on canvas. My work may not plumb the depths of the human soul, but my hope is that it makes people smile. Right now I’m really inspired by Nepal and India – things like the beautiful contrast of a bright pink sari against vivid green rice paddies – and will be displaying and producing works inspired by recent trips to these countries during Art House.’
24 Serena Stevens Environmental semi-abstract landscapes. ‘Influenced by Turner, Rothko and other American Field painters, my paintings (largely rendered in pastel) depict seascapes, the wilderness and wide open spaces often in rigid, horizontal lines and bands. Acting as an imaginary balancing bar, the horizontal line expresses expansiveness, freedom and equilibrium, whilst the addition of vertical strokes suggest barriers and limitiations still to overcome. My work is allegorical; each new piece reveals more than merely shifting patterns of nature – duality, humanity and the perpetual flux of existence also emerge for consideration.’
25 Sita Dotinga Figurative and abstract art infused with colour.
26 Sophie Berger Stephan Mixed-media and collage with a strong female presence.
27 Suzie Baker Landscapes, still lifes and portraits inspired by travel.
28 Waheeda Malullah Collages, photography and video installations. For more information on Art House, visit www.culturevultures.com, email email@example.com, call 39 017 828 or pick up a copy of the comprehensive guidebook, available at Things to Do, The Goodlife Gallery and The Bookcase, among other outlets.