By Isabel Ovalle
Artists from different disciplines took part in the first Spring Outdoor Art Fair at Katara Cultural Village this weekend. The event took place in the amphitheatre, allowing 44 amateur and professional artists to showcase and sell their work. For some of them, it was the first time they had got this kind of opportunity, and they were able to participate free of charge.
Yolanda Caballero, from Mexico, was among the artists who took part in the exhibition. She has been taking classes at the Visual Arts Center for a few months now. “I’m just a beginner; I like to do new things; that is why I started painting. Now I like it so much that I paint for hours without even noticing I’m hungry,” she said.
At the fair, she showed six paintings. One of them was of a horse, which depicts how she first felt upon moving to Qatar: “Fear and even rage, which, with time, have been replaced by courage and strength.” Other works represent her heartbeat and a fertilised uterus.
On her part, Fatma Al Mannai, an art student at Qatar University, felt the fair was a great opportunity, even though she already shows her work in many galleries.
“The local art scene is getting interesting now, but you could say there are too many artists,” she said.
Al Mannai brought 13 pieces to the fair, including landscapes, portraits and images of traditional houses. The Qatari student also teaches visual arts to children between eight and 16 years of age at the Visual Arts Center.
Latife Cedeño, from Venezuela, discovered her ability to paint after attending classes at the Visual Arts Center. “I had never done it before, but I realised I’m good at it thanks to my teacher, who chose the only piece I brought to the show,” she said.
Another artist, Maha Nagy, from Egypt, stated that “after two years of painting, this is an excellent opportunity for me to gain the admiration of other people. That’s more valuable than being able to sell my work.”
The Visual Arts Center works on the development of artistic and cultural events, which promote cultural exchange. The centre also offers training in a variety of creative fields, including photography, digital graphics, oil paintings and screen painting.
Mustafa Issa is a professor at the Center, which is supported by the Ministry of Culture. “It’s a great opportunity for the students and for the people who want to buy art,” he said. “At the Center, we use all types of materials, but here at the fair, we have mostly oil paintings,” he added.
One of the main objectives of the Spring Outdoor Art Fair is to stimulate the art market in Doha and to support Qatar-based artists by maximising opportunities for them to both exhibit and sell works affordable to a general audience interested in art.
Irina McGowan, an Irish national of Russian origin, uses the premises at the Visual Arts Center to paint. In the past few years, she has lived in numerous places in the Middle East, getting the opportunity to learn from professionals.
Her tryst with art began through self-teaching. “First, I watched tutorials online, and later, in 2003, I joined a watercolors course in Jordan,” she explained, adding that she had also taken art courses in Istanbul and other places.
“I don’t have a specific word to describe the art scene in Qatar, but I can say it’s very new, it’s like a child learning to walk,” said the artist, adding that “there are more Qatari artists every day, something I’m pleased to see. They have a spark that’s spreading, giving people here another way to express themselves. If they keep going in that direction, they can give an input in the international art process.”
McGowan has been accepted for a summer course at the state academy of Saint Petersburg. “I’m hoping to come back in September and see a big change,” she said.
Most of her works at the fair were portraits. “I like portraits because they have a point of ambiguity and they tell a lot about the person. I also like traditional Islamic geometric designs because I have lived in this part of the world for over a decade,” stated McGowan.
The Art Fair team counted on the support of artists and the artistic community in its effort to develop more organised opportunities for artists to be able to exhibit and sell their works in Katara.
All works showcased at the fair had to be original, produced by the artists, and signed. Limited editions had to be appropriately numbered or identified. Reproductions had to be clearly identified, while wearable art and fine crafts had to be of original design and individually made.The Peninsula