Art gets messy this month as galleries get decorated from the outside in
Time Out Bahrain staff
It was the name of the workshop being offered by Al Riwaq Gallery this month that got our attention: ‘A Beautiful Mess’. And a beautiful contradiction that we thought was worth investigating, so we got in touch with the gallery’s curator, Mayssa Fattouh.
What it is, she tells us, is a group workshop/exhibition where participating artists will create an artwork at their own pace in the gallery, and visitors will be able to see the creative process in motion. ‘The artists will work directly on the walls, where the art will remain as a permanent exhibition afterwards,’ she says, adding that the ‘messy’ title derives from the fact that, because of the variety of participants, there will be a mixture of different media, from acrylic to oil, graffiti to poetry, and some artworks are even expected to have an audio element, which will be played through a sound system set up for the event.
It’s not completely random, though: ‘The uniting theme will be an exploration of the artists’ impressions of life in Bahrain,’ says Fattouh, ‘and the artists will be aware of this link between each other’s work, so that it’s not incoherent. The result will be a mural of poetic expression showing that the artists are united as a community, but still individuals when it comes to expressing themselves; it will thus be “a beautiful mess”.
‘The aim of the workshop is to encourage young and emerging artists to venture beyond their comfort zone and traditional aescetics,’ says Fattouh, adding that this keeps with Al Riwaq’s driving passion, which has always been to directly engage with the local artistic community and provide a platform for thought-provoking expression, ‘which can’t be fully achieved through the usual static exhibitions’.
And the gallery has plans to take this approach a step further. It is the vision of owner Bayan Kanoo, together with Fattouh, to form an alternative art school in the future. ‘It is currently a real struggle to pursue art as a career in Bahrain, and we want to try to fill the gap by offering short courses, more workshops, an outreach programme for schools, artist residencies and much more,’ says Fattouh. ‘Admittedly, you can graduate in fine art at university here, but while it’s good to know your history and the foundations of art, we are in 2009 and need to live our time, and there is no art school that provides different specialisations and modern concepts.’
With affiliations to the Tate Modern in London, the Town House gallery in Cairo and Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim, Al Riwaq has the wherewithal to keep a flow of inspiration coming in from far and wide. The challenge is to find the space to have it all flowing into, because at the end of this month they sadly have to say farewell to this particular space. ‘We’re going to need studios, an environment to bring the community together, hold exhibitions, run workshops through recognised institutions… so we are looking at a very diverse platform,’ says Fattouh, adding that she will miss the expansive Al A’ali mall space, which has lent itself to chameleon-like transformation with every exhibition and workshop. For this month, though, they’re still in residence, and we recommend you get on over there to enjoy this avant garde art moment while it lasts. Al Riwaq Gallery, second floor, Al A’ali Shopping Complex, Seef (17 581 176; www.alriwaqgallery.org). A Beautiful Mess runs until July 21.