Kuwaiti print maker Thuraya Al-Baqsami on identity, Kuwait art scene, writing – ART Interview


Thuraya Al-Baqsami

Thuraya Al-Baqsami

 

KUWAITI ARTIST INTERVIEW

This is an abridged version of ART Interview’s talk with Kuwaiti print maker Thurayama Al-Baqsami who is considered one of Kuwait’s most outspoken female artists. For over three and a half decades, Thuraya Al-Baqsami has remained steadfast in her commitment to use the arts as a vehicle for intellectual transformation and social change.

Brief bio

Thuraya Al-Baqsami was born 1951 in Kuwait City. She received her academic training in Cairo, Egypt at the “College of Fine Arts” during 1972 and 1973 before moving on in 1981 to earn her Masters Degree in book illustration and design from the “Art College of Surikov” in Moscow, Russia.Thuraya Al-Baqsami received the Golden Palm Leaf award from the GCC in 1989 and in 1992. Her work on the book on the International Declaration of Human Rights, Liberte 98, was praised by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. In 1987 and in 1992 she received the first prize award from the Kuwait National Museum.

Collectors of Thuraya Al-Baqsami

Her work can be found in public and private collections throughout Asia, the Middle East and the United States as well as in Europe. Some of the museums that have collected Al-Baqsami’s work include; the Kuwait National Museum, the Bahrain National Museum, Modern Art Museum in Escobia-Macedonia, Contemporary Islamic Art Museum in Amman-Jordan, The British Museum – London, Bayan Palace-Amiri Diwan in Kuwait and the Central University of Nationalities in Beijing, China.

Interview abridged

Art Interview: Is there an art-scene in Kuwait?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: We have an art association, of which I have been a member since 1968. There is also the National Council of Arts. It is part of the Department of Culture that belongs to the Ministry of Information. We have quite a few artists but they tend to be female rather than male. We have painters and sculptors but I think I am the only print maker. We also have video artists and computer artists now. I think the level of art in Kuwait is okay for such a young country. But since we don’t have art colleges it is developing more slowly than in Europe or America.

Art Interview: Are there modern art museums in Kuwait?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes, yes, we have a museum of Kuwaiti art. You could call it modern because it’s only 30 or 40 years old.

Art Interview: Have you always done the type of art that you are doing now?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: No, I’ve changed. I try to discover myself through my art. I started making experimental art. I built upon this step by step. I like to change every 2-3 years, not dramatically, but step by step. When I work with a media or a subject and I feel that I can’t take it further then I move on. Sometimes to loosen up I’ll work abstractly but I like people and I want to see them in my work. So much of my work centers on portrait and figurative art.

Art Interview: How has your writing affected your art?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: I have six published novels, two books for children, a book of art criticism, a book of poetry, a book about my experiences in the war in Lebanon and another one with funny, satirical articles. Writing is part of my personality. It takes up much of my time. But people know me more as an artist than as a writer. Writing is a big challenge for me and I feel it will continue to be a wonderful part of my future. I am trying very hard to establish myself as a good writer. Writing is very important for me because I have things inside of me that I cannot put into paintings. Painting is different than writing. Writing means paper, information, and feeling to me. It means good language; you can do it in a corner, on the bus or sitting in the park. Painting, on the other hand, means technique and composition to me. Sometimes I mix the two together. If I have an image in my head I’ll often I write about it and sometimes I’ll do a painting based on my writing.

Thuraya Al-Baqsami

Thuraya Al-Baqsami

Art Interview: Would you consider them as illustration?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes, they are illustrations of what I feel. Sometimes I feel that what I write down would be too difficult to tell in a painting. I live in peace with these two forms of expression: writing and painting.

Art Interview: Do you write in Arabic?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes, I write in Arabic, in my own language. It is a difficult language and at the same time it is very, very rich. It is a wonderful language to write in.

Art Interview: Do you illustrate your poetry?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes. I illustrated my poetry, my short stories and the children’s stories that I wrote. My poetry is about love and women and human relations in Arabic society, which are very complicated themes.

Art Interview: Is it possible to buy these books? Have they been translated into English?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes. Yes. Arabic literature is very difficult to get in North America but Europeans can get some of my books translated into English over www.amazon.co.uk

Art Interview: Do you think that your choice to be an artist was a difficult choice or did it feel very easy and natural?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Becoming an artist was very natural for me. Since I was a child I knew that I wanted to be an artist. This has made life easier. One of my daughters is also like this. Since she was a kid she also wanted to be an artist. These people don’t suffer the same as some people do because they know from the beginning on what they want to be. Some people even finish university and get a job and still they don’t know what they want to be. This was my decision from the beginning: I want to be an artist.

Art Interview: What about your identity in Kuwait? Is it typical that Arabic women artists have the opportunity to exhibit internationally as frequently as you do?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: No.

Art Interview: It is unique then?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes, I’m unique.

Art Interview: What is it that drives you to do this? It’s a lot of work.

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Yes, it is a lot of work but as I told you my husband plans my schedule for me since he is my manager and I usually agree with time frames.

Art Interview: Is the relationship between you and your husband atypical for the Arab world?

Thuraya Al-Baqsami: For an Arab man my husband is very unique. Usually Arabian men are very selfish and they don’t like having their wives in the spotlight. My husband is one of the rare men who shows his strength by allowing freedoms that others would not. For example, many people have the wrong idea and they ask him how he could let his wife stay alone in another country. But he trusts me and he trusts that I am doing something good for my future.

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