x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Award winner: Nouf Al Semari

In The City by Nouf Al Semari. Image courtesy of the artist
In The City by Nouf Al Semari. Image courtesy of the artist

Nouf al Semari has been announced as the winner of the Clyde & Co Community Art Project. For her painting, In The City, she won a Dh30,000 prize as well as a full year of pro bono legal advice from the international law firm.

Al Semari, 30, lives in Dammam in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. She is a self-taught artist who works from home and this is the first time she has won an award for her work. I personally was drawn to her work as soon as I saw it. I love the fact that she weaves stories into her paintings through layers and narratives that reveal themselves the longer you look at them. I also really admire her concept and her questioning of the concrete jungles in the Gulf region.

Here I caught up with her for a Q&A:

Q: What was the influence behind the piece In The City?

A: When I started this piece I was always wondering about our cities and if they reflect who we really are. In the Gulf, we copy the modern structure of cities in the West yet we have an identity of our own, which we have thrown aside without giving it a chance to be developed and to keep up with modern life. In the end, the question I am asking with this piece is do we really relate to this city or are we just as shallow as it looks, a pointless concrete jungle?

Q: What particular city is the painting based upon?

A: Cities in the Gulf in general are all very similar to each other – they are cities of cement, with high roads and huge buildings but they are full of emptiness. It is not like Beirut or Cairo, where people there are proud of their roots. Ibn Khaldun wrote about how people are influenced by their cities and regions and where they live so again this led me to ask, how much do we in the Gulf relate to our cities?

Q: Where do you usually find inspiration for your work?

A: From everywhere and everything around me. I notice small details and sometimes I get stuck on a word that I feel needs to be to expanded into something more than just sounds. To get to those unspoken words I need colours and images that pop into my mind and melt on the canvas – they give it more dimension.

Q: Did you study art?

A: Actually I am a self taught artist. I studied business in King Faisal University in Dammam and art was my passion. I love to learn and search and read more about it. I think that the academic study of art, as much as it helps you, can also take away this raw feeling of experimenting and improving yourself naturally.

Q: How do you feel when you paint?

A: I chase myself in art, even if I paint something that is about my society it remains to be about my own struggle in that place. I always want to know myself more and through art it’s easier for me to understand and know more about this journey.

* Applications are now open for the next edition of the Clyde & Co Community Art Project. The aim of the project is to nurture the talent of collegiate art students in the Middle East. The prize will combine one year’s exhibition in the Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices of the law firm as well as pro bono legal advice. For more info email: mena.communityartproject@clydeco.com