Qatari Artist: Faraj Daham at WAA

2019 marks the official Year of Culture between Qatar and India. As part of this collaboration, senior Qatari artist, Mr. Faraj Daham was invited to Mumbai for a month long residency at WAA Residency, Mumbai from April 20th – May 20th. 

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Daham was certain about the purpose of his visit to India, he expressed, “I have come as someone who appreciates art but also as the representative of Qatar to help with the exchange between India and Qatar. I haven’t looked at this like a holiday or a tour of India. I was very clear about what I wanted to do and this was a challenge.”

Daham took a week to settle into Mumbai and he immediately started work thereafter. With his ongoing Masters Degree in Fine Art from the US, he was keen on looking at the manuscripts in India and using that as a starting point for his work. His choice of material was pigment-henna (a dye prepared from the plant Lawsonia inermis) — omnipresent in India! Daham was interested in exploring different tone variations with different pigments, selectively mixing red, green and black henna available in the market, to achieve different results ranging between tones and later controlling the mixture to achieve a particular result. “The residency gave me the time to use my senses ranging between the natural tones; smell and texture to experiment with the pigment. India has so much to offer and Henna is one of the most beautiful materials – you can smell the essence of life in it.”

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Even though Daham had previously worked with henna in Qatar he was inquisitive about it’s relevance in India and it’s interconnection with peoples life. During Daham’s time in Mumbai, What About Art arranged for various interactions with Indian collectives, curators, art critics, and artists. Daham enjoyed his interactions with Ranjit Hoskote, Sahej Rahal, and Clark House Initiative.

Daham visited the Kochi Muziris Biennale along with WAA Director Eve Lemesle. The WAA team organised for Daham to see traditional arts and crafts at the museums in Mumbai: Dr Bhau Daji Lad and CSMVS and took him to block printing workshops. Daham was also able to get a glimpse of the vibrant contemporary art scene in Mumbai, having attended

Art Night Thursday. WAA invited Carpe Arte – an art enthusiasts and collectors organization to engage with Daham’s work and be inspired.

Daham tried to move away from the tourist gaze and looked at the street for inspiration and “find the essence of Mumbai and experience the lifestyle”. When asked if he would return to India for a project or a residency, Daham responded, “Yes! Definitely I would like to… in India, the life style and culture all work in harmony, there is a natural discipline in the population, traffic and even the environment. There is harmony between the sounds, the motion and all the senses.”

It was a truly wonderful experience to have an artist like Mr Daham at the residency. It was inspiring to see how immersed he is in his practice and how easy art-making comes to him. The sight of him coming into the studios early in the morning and working through the whole day was greatly appreciated by the other artists and pushed them to also create in the same way. Each day would see a new series of work being created which is a testament to his success as one of Qatar’s most prolific artists.

Mr Daham was also extremely curious about his surroundings, the culture and people of Mumbai. Having him at the residency pushed us to think outside of the box in terms of sourcing materials and scheduling activities. We were able to see the city and its crafts through a new lens which was very insightful for the whole team.

We really enjoyed setting up the interactions with younger artists, as it gave them exposure to his practices and his ways of art-making. We could see how beneficial this was through the Carpe Arte studio visit as many stayed on after to have deep discussions with him about being a professional artist and what methods he employs in his practice. His background as a conceptual artist and mentor was greatly appreciated as it informed all his discussions with visitors and the team, making it a two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

WAA is very grateful to have worked with Mr Daham and we look forward to hosting more Qatari artists in the future!

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Virginie Mercure

Virginie Mercure was 2018’s Quebec artist in residence. This residency is generously supported by the Quebec Government, which allows for an artist from Quebec to be hosted in Mumbai for 4 months.

Virginie came to Mumbai in November 2018 and stayed till March 2019. She lives and works in Quebec City, and this was her first time come to Asia. She holds a Master’s degree in Visual Arts from Laval University. Virginie’s work revolves around two main axes: architecture and painting. The latter has been preponderant for a long time. She is now working to give the two parts of her practice an equivalent strength. Virginie is here in India to think about the ways in which the intention could be embodied in matter. Through the visit of architectural sites, art galleries, museums and artistic events, she fills her eyes and head with new images. It is in this basin of new brain materials, created by what India has in particular that she will glean ideas that will shape her future works. Parallel to her visits, she creates 3D drawings on her computer of architectural structures that could become sculptures. It’s a way of recording, testing and refining the ideas that come from her observations.

Virginie made the most of her time in India by travelling extensively around the country. A large part of her practice is the journey and this could be over bus, train, car ride and even walking. Like a flaneur, she incorporated exploration into her artistic practice, taking a vast number of pictures of the various different locations she went to, specifically the architecture.

She was particularly drawn to the vibrant colours of the buildings and homes in the smaller tier cities she visited and used this as inspiration for her paintings. Some of the places she went to were Kochi, Goa, Bodhgaya, Hampi, Pondicherry, Madurai and Mahabalipuram. Virginie picked out specific elements from the variety of architecture she saw, ranging from the ancient temples to the more colonial churches. This juxtaposed with the urban landscape of Mumbai provided for rich visual imagery which she translated beautifully onto her canvas.

 

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Island of Bandra

“Island of Bandra” is an ongoing project by Mumbai based artist Nirvaiir Nath.

Having Graduated with a BFA in painting from Rachana Sansad AFAC, Nirvaiir went on to open and manage “Coral Studios” where he curated events around music and art while pursuing his own studio practice. He currently works as a concept artist for Yashraj films.

While at WAA, Nirvaiir further developed his personal project, one that aims to explore the relationship between food, body, mind and place through food, drawings, props, costume, sound and performance. Set in a mise-en-scene manner, the project aims to bring all of these elements together to tell the story of three characters inhabiting a semi- fictional “Island of Bandra”.

During the open studio, Nirvaiir shared work created thus far for the project and used it as an opportunity to share ideas and get feedback from the visitors. To create an immersive environment for visitors to enter into, he brought in the element of smell using foods like biryani, roast chicken and other cooked meats that gave the studio an aura of over indulgence and over consumption, something he relates the current situation if Bandra to.

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Lisa Myeong-Joo

This year’s Open Studio also included Australian artist Lisa Myeong-Joo who came to Mumbai for a month at the end of 2018.

Lisa’s practice is performative, collaborative and repetitive. She is interested in the dual nature of things, often using both hands with word and drawing to come between these two parts. There is clarity and purpose in her practice when working in foreign places. In order to make sense of the seemingly nonsensical, there is a search for universals in the re-arrangement of symbol, language and gesture. In her conceptual practice, she works through performance, text and installation.

Lisa Myeong-Joo was adopted from Seoul in 1988, and grew up in Australia. Despite graduating from a Bachelor of Interior Design in 2012, Lisa went on to pursue an artistic practice, basing herself in South Korea, learning the culture and language and later an artist in residence at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, Changdong in 2016. For the past 2 years she has been traveling to India for residency and collaborative projects, most recently at Changer Haat, Kolkata.

For her project at WAA, Lisa created an installation made up of playing cards she has found during her travels in India. All the cards pertain to specific spots in the country and audiences were invited to touch and play with them, often eliciting their own personal stories related to the cards or the places they came from.

Lisa also grew fascinated by the many cables that stretch across Mumbai’s skyline and decided to create an piece inspired by this dense network of wire using her own hair which was falling due to the weather change. She created her own diorama’s using this hair and turned it onto a performance piece where she solved daily crosswords with her mother who was helping her over the phone. The performance became a way for her to bond with her mother who was far away and bring it the city of Mumbai, her current temporary home.

 

At the end of her residency, Lisa held a performance in collaboration with her artist friend Reiko Shimizo and Studio Ex-forma, a design studio, titled “Sun Sanga”.

Rhea Maheshwari

In December 2018, New Zealand based painter, Rhea Maheshwari came to WAA for a two month residency that culminated in the Annual Open Studio. The Open Studio was part of Mumbai Gallery Weekend 2019 on January 20th.

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She writes:

“Ornamental cartography is a way of mapping the world through a subjective lens. The maps we know emphasise clean lines, borders and boundaries that divide and colonise the world into manageable sections. This mirrors a cartesian dualistic perspective, where the mind and matter are thought of as two separate orders,  one is seen as active (mind) and one inert or passive (matter) and therefore knowable and controllable. Ornamental cartography is a process used to harmonise and balance out this relationship so both have an equal force. Ornament is a balance of two opposing forces, organic and mathematical, it exemplifies how nature and culture can come together in harmony to perpetually create something new. Similarly the disparity between mind and matter, or what we have and what we desire provoke us to act and this Mindful action or ‘karma’ is necessary in order to extend ourselves into the unknown.

Therefore my work is essentially tantric. Tantra has two meanings “that which enables extension” and loom weave and fabric.

I paint elements from my environment that I am drawn to and place them with an ornamental rhythm guiding the viewer’s eyes up, down and across the picture plane. This references patterned tapestries such as Toile de Jouy and Chinese wallpapers and emphasises the harmonious relationship between elements within the bigger picture.  I fill in the gaps with what i desire to see, weaving together visual and conceptual strands with my own bodily rhythm. Painting to me is an act of harmonising disparate elements- with contrasting colours, textures, rhythms, perspectives and narratives, interacting within the picture plane. Each painting leads to the next and extends out into infinity.”

Priyank Gothwal

September, 2018, saw Priyank Gothwal join WAA for residency he was awarded through the Inlaks India Foundation. As a photographer and filmmaker, he was interested in filming in some of the old mills of the city as he had a project in mind.

As it was proving to be difficult to get access to the old mill compounds to film, Priyank changed his project and decided to turn his bedroom in the apartment into a studio where he spent 15 days, 12 hours a day, filming a cactus plant which later turned into a mixed media installation. He was inspired by a book about boredom and chose to consciously situate himself in a space where he was forced to be bored juxtaposing himself  with the slow growth of the cactus plant. During this filming, Priyank explored ideas of the passing of time, temporality and what happens in an artists’ subconscious while working on long durational projects. Priyank created beautiful graphite and charcoal drawings as a result of this time consuming process which he also displayed in his studio.

During his residency, he had studio visits with filmmaker Avijit Mukul Kishore and artist Meera Devidayal along with interactions with the other artists at the residency which then culminated in an informal open studio.