Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

A picture can tell a thousand words: 10 regional artists to follow on Instagram

There is a lot more to Instagram than, selfies, family portraits, holiday snaps and photos of food.

While many people do use the image-­sharing site to chronicle their day-to-day lives in all their mundane minutiae, for artists, it offers an incredible social-media tool to share and publicise their work.

By using Instagram to its full potential, artists of all abilities and experience levels, from beginners to established professionals, can present their work to the world in a free and democratic way, where it will stand or fall entirely on its own merits.

For new and emerging artists, the benefits are obvious, but it also offers more established names a chance to spread the word and showcase creativity to a new, wider ­audience.

Many artists from the Middle East have grabbed the opportunity to create an identity for themselves on Instagram – here is our pick of the 10 regional artists you should be following.

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Ghada Amer (@ghadaamer)

Nationality: Egyptian

Home: New York

Almost like a visual diary, Ghada Amer’s feed shows images of her work, her studio and her travels with friends and family. She appears in several of her own shots and is refreshingly honest – showing the trial and error in her process.

She has relatively few followers compared with the other artists on this list but she already has her own hashtag (#LadyGhada) and is one of the region’s foremost artists, so her admirers are certain to multiply quickly. Now’s your chance to get in and follow her from the start.

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eL Seed (@elseed)

Nationality: French-Tunisian

Home: Dubai

His work is mostly created in the public arena and the community around it is almost as important as the art itself – hence eL Seed’s popularity. Most recently, his Instagram feed has been full of images and videos taken in Cairo, where he has just completed his latest project – a mural on 40 buildings in one of the city’s poorest areas. Titled Perception, the goal was to change views of the place and its people. His art is irresistible to photographers – the colours and form translate well and the meaning is so genuine that everything about this artist is conducive to a big fan base.

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Shaweesh (@shaweesh_)

Nationality: Saudi Arabian

Home: Riyadh

When street artist Shaweesh started out in 2011 he had 5,000 followers and had to borrow a friend’s phone to post on Instagram. Then he began working as creative director of Telfaz 11, a media collective of creative people in the region, and people began to follow his satirical style, which blends historical figures and events with modern urban culture. “I don’t consider Instagram a platform for me as an artist,” he says. “I’d rather people research the work that I display rather than learn about myself.”

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Hayv Kahraman (@hayvkahraman)

Nationality: Iraqi

Home: Los Angeles

With clean-lined aesthetics and a somewhat gentle tone, Havy Kahraman confronts controversial issues of gender politics in a quiet yet assertive way. Her Instagram feed consists mostly of her artwork and studio shots – she treats it like “having an enormous open studio visit”, where she can post new art and work in progress. “It enables me to gauge people’s interests and, most importantly, whether the work is accessible or not,” she says.

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Wissam Shawkat (@wissamshawkat)

Nationality: Iraqi

Home: Dubai

Mostly featuring images of his calligraphy paintings, Wissam Shawkat’s Instagram account provides an insight into his prolific practice. He takes the traditional rules and styles of calligraphy and makes them fresh and contemporary. He also sometimes posts sketches, pictures of his tools and videos of himself at work, to give a behind-the-scenes view to his followers. “I am a visual artist and for me Instagram is the best social-­media platform because it is all about visuals. It is like a portfolio and I can convey my ideas and thoughts that are not easy to convey through text,” he says.

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Maitha Demithan (@maithademithan)

Nationality: Emirati

Home: Dubai

Maitha Demithan is one of the UAE’s most promising young talents and her feed is a visual treat. She posts some images of her art – either watercolour painting or her scanography work (which involves the manipulation of digital scans of her subjects) – but what adds value to the content is the fact that every picture she takes is a work of art in its own right. “Instagram to me is like a sketch book that I pull out of my pocket,” she says. “It’s a record of a second in my life, an idea, a creation, an intimate moment which is shared instantly with the viewers.”

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Yaman Okur (@yam_sonite)

Nationality: French-Turkish

Home: Paris

When you find this feed, you feel like you have uncovered a well-kept secret. Yaman Okur is an acrobat, an artist and a photographer rolled into one. His images are taken without any digital manipulation, Photoshop or otherwise – he just fuses all his abilities and takes magnificent shots. See him leaping from an underground train, flying through the desert or floating in the air next to the Eiffel Tower. “I think Instagram is a smart way to present art,” he says. “Everything I post is a piece of my heart and soul – I guess that’s why people like it.”

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Fatma Lootah (@fatmalootah)

Nationality: Emirati

Home: Verona

Fatma Lootah paints figures, very often from the GCC, in an abstract style in colourful and soulful works that capture not only the spirit of the person but also the place and environment. She is prolific on Instagram, posting several images a day, mostly of her paintings but occasionally of herself and people she has met. The feed is a daily art exhibition and a joy to follow. “I try my best to show my paintings to people who can’t come to my shows,’ she says. “It helps me to share with them beauty and art that touches their souls.”

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Ghadah Alkandari (@prettygreenbullet)

Nationality: Kuwaiti

Home: Kuwait

With a whimsical and beautiful touch, Ghadah Alkandari uses Instagram as a tool to tell the story of her imaginary character, Eve. The artist, who goes by the pseudonym Pretty Green Bullet, describes Eve as a woman who is mischievous, feisty and free-spirited. “Because of Instagram and great cameras on smart phones, I was able to bring her to life and create stories around her, rather than have her remain a stationary character in my sketchbooks,” says Alkandari. As well as pictures of her sketches of Eve, she also posts self portraits and images of her work presented as individual pieces of art.

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Dana Awartani (@danaawartani_art)

Nationality: Saudi Arabian

Home: Jeddah

One of the most promising emerging artists from Saudi Arabia, Dana Awartani concentrates on Islamic geometry and creating minimal and contemporary pieces of art and design. Her Instagram posts are mostly of her work but she also shares images from her travels and discoveries. With an artist’s eye, every photo she posts accentuates the angles and shapes that feature in her artwork. Awartani’s Instagram account is private, but it is well worth requesting access into her fascinating world.

Updated: April 12, 2016 04:00 AM

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