Exploring Boundaries through Artistic Residency
"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.
What you'll discover will be wonderful.
What you'll discover is yourself."
~ Alan Alda
These words rang in my ears as I embarked upon a solo artist residency in a new place. It was surrounded by nature and freedom, allowing me to focus on my art practice. I saw the residency as an opportunity to expand my boundaries and borders, try something new, and challenge myself in ways I hadn't before.
When I arrived, the beauty of the surroundings was breathtaking. Beaches, mountains, and mangroves stretched as far as the eye could see. I spent the first few weeks exploring the landscape, visiting places like Al Falaya and Dayah Fort, museums, and Al Jazeera Al Hamra. I sketched and studied the natural and artificial textures and patterns while recording my observations through photographs. I allowed myself to absorb the surroundings, to embrace the welcome and warmth of people and the land.
As I settled into my new environment, I began to feel a sense of calm, focus, and determination that I hadn’t experienced before. As part of my selection as the Artist in Residence at the Al Qasimi Foundation, I was tasked with creating an artistic project that culminated my experience and expression of Ras Al Khaimah. I knew I wanted to create something with paper that reflected its nature and heritage, but I also wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and boundaries. Therefore, I decided to try a new technique called Papermaking to advance my existing paper art skills. I also took on an ambitious idea and challenged myself to create the biggest installation of my career.
I set up a small papermaking studio at my apartment, provided by the Foundation. I completed most of my cutting work there as I collected various plants and vegetables across Ras Al Khaimah and spent my evenings experimenting with different fibers, textures, and colors. I was amazed by the results. I started making proto paper with vegetables like carrots and beetroots, and I gradually advanced to making handmade paper from plants and vegetables like artichoke, sunseberia, jute, and yucca. I also began experimenting with textures and adding coral textures to the paper. I learned a new skill while doing this and became more aware of the plants and nature surrounding me. I began to see the nature of Ras Al Khaimah differently as I noticed the textures, flexibility, and shapes I had previously overlooked.
In addition to my art practice, I had several opportunities to engage with the larger community of Ras Al Khaimah, which helped me to expand my knowledge. I connected with local creatives, attended lectures and exhibitions, and conducted a workshop at Higher Colleges of Technology. I taught higher education students about psaligraphy and offered a workshop to inmates at a local prison. Working with this vulnerable population was a powerful and unique experience as it allowed for collective creativity to bloom in a confined space. Witnessing the thought-provoking art created by the inmates who expressed their desires, hopes, and culture was amazing.
As I reflect on this experience as an artist in residence, I realize the impact of the invaluable support provided by the entire team at the Al Qasimi Foundation. This experience has given me space and time that allowed me to delve into my practice and develop my artistry skills truly. It allowed me to focus on my work with undivided attention and without worrying about financial or logistical constraints. Dr. Natasha Ridge and Mr. Suqrat bin Bisher, I sincerely thank you for your support and guidance.
As my residency has ended, I feel both sadness and gratefulness. Sad to have left the beautiful place of Ras Al Khaimah and the Al Qasimi family, who became so dear to me, but also grateful for the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. I look back with pride and joy for the experiences that pushed me to expand my boundaries, try new things and ideas, take risks, and be more confident in myself and my art. I presented—Footprints—my immersive installation, at the 2023 Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival. It represented the celebration of the relationship between nature and humankind. This relationship inspired my creativity to make a dress made of handmade paper as an addition to my exhibition. As seen in the photo below, I wore it during the opening night as I shared the inspiration for my art piece to His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah.
My residency was a transformative and rewarding experience. I encourage all artists to consider applying for the Artist in Residence Grant at the Al Qasimi Foundation and take advantage of the unique opportunities residencies offer. You may discover that you can grow in ways you never thought possible and take your art practice to new heights.