Posted on August 15, 2011

Showcasing the transition of the visual arts in Qatar over four decades, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, yesterday, opened an exhibition featuring some 75 Qatari artworks. Swalif: Qatari Art Between Memory and Modernity features works from the collection of Mathaf, that brings together the intimate responses of twenty-three artists to Qatar and art during the rapid shifting of society, surroundings and traditional lifestyles that followed the discovery of oil.

This is the second exhibition to open in Mathaf’s building near Education City since the museum opened at the end of last year. The new show features more than 75 artworks from Mathaf’s extensive collection of Arab modern art in a variety of media, including oil paint, watercolor, print, ceramics, wood and mixed media. It illustrates an important chapter of Qatar’s art story between the 1960s and the early 2000s.

The Arabic word swalif suggests friendly, informal conversations and the recounting of stories. Swalif invites visitors to view, reminisce and respond to 23 artists’ visions of Qatar and art, created during the rapid shifting of society, surroundings and traditional lifestyles that followed the discovery of oil. The exhibition includes excerpts from video interviews with artists and a ‘memory web’ for visitors to leave their own impressions.

“The exhibition represents a great opportunity for visitors to explore the development of modern art in Qatar,” said H E Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, Vice Chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority and Mathaf’s patron. “Mathaf will showcase some of the best artwork by Qatari artists, demonstrating that there has been a vibrant art scene in Qatar going back several decades.”

While, “Saqr” (2006) by Sheikh Hassan Al Thani is the newest work exhibited, the oldest one is “The Bisht Maker” (1965) by Abdulwahed Al Mawlawi. Many artworks refer to Qatar’s long artistic history with details and motifs drawn from local architecture, traditional Bedouin “sadou” designs, plaster decoration, and the wealth of other traditional crafts in the region. The museum curators hope that this presentation by Swalif of a distinctly Qatari modern art movement will help to inspire students, artists and residents with new visions of artistic possibilities for the future.

“We look forward to inspiring our visitors to engage in new dialogues about Qatari modern art, and to explore for themselves how artists in Qatar have responded to the tensions between nostalgia, modernity, and the search for an aesthetic identity,” said Wassan Al Khudairi, Mathaf’s Director.

Apart from Al Mawlawi and Al Thani, the other artists featured in Swalif include Yousef Ahmad, Ali Hassan, Faraj Daham, Mohammed Al Jaidah, Mohammed Ali Abdulla, Ahmed Al Asadi, Mohammed Al Atiq, Wafika Sultan Saif Al Essa, Essa Al Ghanem, Ahmed Al Haddad, Wafa Al Hamad, Ahmad Al Hamar, Saif Al Kuwari, Salman Al Malik, Essa Al Malki, Hassan Al Mulla, Abdulrahman Al Mutawah, Majid Hilal Al Naimi, Ali Sharif, Sultan Al Sulaiti and Jassim Zaini.

Yousef Ahmad worked closely with Mathaf as Senior Curatorial Advisor to realise the exhibition. Swalif which runs until October 29 opens at Mathaf alongside Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, which runs until October 1, 2011.

Accompanying the exhibition are projects and programs that engage directly with the community. The Education Department has already hosted workshops with Qatar Academy as part of Mathaf’s “Community Voices” project, resulting in exhibition labels written by students to offer a fresh, engaging view of selected artworks.

During the exhibition, Mathaf will continue to offer workshops as part of the Artist Encounters series along with educational programmes for schools and universities. New programmes will also be launched, including In Conversation, aimed at encouraging further dialogue with the artists, their work, and the developing cultural scene in Doha.

Admission to Swalif and Sajjil is free of charge. A catalogue including artists’ biographies will be available at Mahal, the Mathaf gift shop, along with a variety of exhibition merchandise, featuring a contemporary take on traditional “sadou” designs.

source: The Peninsula

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