Qatari artist navigates emotional highs and lows of the pandemic
Qatari artist Muna Al Bader has used a singular color multiple artworks to precise the unprecedented emotional rollercoaster people experience during the pandemic. It has been a year since the COVID-19 outbreak has sent shockwaves on various sectors of worldwide economy, and other people round the world have all experienced a mix of fear, sadness, and happiness in what many people consider an existential crisis.
While artists around the world take to art production to convey feelings and meanings in the context of the global pandemic experience, the resident artists at the Fire Station shifted their focus from the intersection between visual art and literature to a more relevant theme of examination of self and their surroundings in the time of COVID-19.
“My paintings and sculptures are all associated with opposing emotions which are happiness and sadness. Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic but at the same time we feel happy that we do something useful like, in my case, volunteering with the Qatar Red Crescent. I saw the happiness of people we helped and I reflected that on my paintings,” said Al Bader, one of the Fire Station resident artists.
17 more artists comprising the fifth cycle of fireside Station Artist in Residence programme are on display at “Grey Times” exhibition which recently opened at the hearth Station Garage Gallery. Al Bader is showcasing a set of her paintings and sculptures she fashioned during her nine-month residency. They are all in different shades of blue, which is the signature colour of Al Bader’s artworks. “I’ve used the blue colour because it’s the reflection of the sky and the sea and it’s also a reflection of emotions which are sadness and happiness,” she explained. Many of Al Bader’s works specialise in important aspects of her culture and tradition like traditional wedding, music and folklore.
For her residency she spotlighted on pearl divers, their feelings of sadness get through from their loved ones while within the sea, exhaustion caused by a physically demanding work, and happiness as they perform songs and dances to amuse themselves. Artist in Residence is an annual initiative, established in 2015, that nurtures creative talent from across the country and worldwide. “The firehouse residency added value to me artistically because i used to be not doing any sculpture before, but this point I even have made new sculptures and this is often the benefit of my experience in the Fire Station,” she said. A computer engineer and business analyst by trade, Al Bader was motivated to further her artistic journey when she won first place in an art salon when she was just starting, after which she had taken art workshops and participated in exhibitions from Qatar to as far as Turkey, the UK and France.
“Grey Times” features a various array of artworks including paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, video and photography, all reflecting the concept of creativity in time of isolation. The artworks are as diverse as the artists in residence including Al Bader, Aisha Al Muhannadi, Ameera Al Aji, Amena Al Yousef, Ebtesam “Ebi” Al Hothi, Hind Al Saad, Latifa Al Kuwari, Maryam Al Maadhadi, Mashael Al Hijazi, Naila Al Thani, Noor Yousef, Hadeer Omar, Haytham Sharrouf, Jaser Alagha, Majdulin Nasrallah, Mariam Rafehi, Maysaa Almumin, and Suzana Joumaa. The group exhibition, which marks the end of the fifth edition of Qatar Museums’ Artist in Residence programme, runs until July 24 at Garage Gallery and is open from 9am to 7pm Saturday to Thursday and from 1.30pm to 7pm on Friday following COVID-19 safety protocols.