A composition in still life. Photos/Kamal Kassim
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Taghrid Mustafa Ashkir hails from Syria and is a painter based in the UAE. She has rich art experience, and enjoys the membership of leading art bodies such as Emirates Fine Arts Society and the Al Nahda women’s association, Dubai.
She has participated in many exhibitions in the Emirates, including Islamic Arts Festival (Emirates Fine Arts Society) 2012; Visual Dialogues Exhibition (Sharjah Institute of Fine Arts) 2012; Summer Arts Festival (Emirates Institute of Fine Arts) 2013; the annual exhibition at the Cultural Club (Umm Al Quwain) 2016; Noon Exhibition (Sharjah Ladies Club), Sharjah 2017; International Women’s Day, Arab Cultural Club, Sharjah 2019; Canvas Hotel, 2020 and the Online exhibition (Salam Ramadan), Dubai, 2020, among others.
She has hosted Arts workshops, including one on Sculpture using metal wires (Emirates Society of Fine Arts) 2012; and Inscriptions in Japanese Calligraphy (Sharjah Art Museum) 2013.
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She is also an educationist, with a strong record in teaching the Arabic language and shedding light on academic issues.
Akshir paints her views on Gulf Today’s canvas
Do you want to draw scenes of common life? If so why?
I really like to draw about a shared life, because it conveys different images of the reality we live in. And to embody it on a painting, to make it appear as a vibrant piece of life, especially when feelings are added to them. Every artwork about life is like a piece of the artist’s soul — a snapshot of life that will not be repeated.
What are the characteristics of black and white and colour for you?
White and black are contrasting and complementary colours. The beauty of white is only visible in contrast to black.
I love all colours; but when I paint sadness, I prefer to use black. In my portrayal of women, I use only these two colours to express absolute purity and pain, experienced at the same time.
How did the Syrian war affect you as an artist?
Pain is always the artist’s first inspiration for creativity. Art is the arena in which the artist is free to go, using his own tools as he goes.
The war made the black space inside my soul bigger, after it was filled with smoke of war and the smell of death. All of this affected my way of drawing and my colours, to transform my paintings.
Who are your role models as an artist? In the world of art or anywhere else?
Every believer who is strong and a lover of life and achievement, is my role model. In art I do not have an example as a person - an honest, emotional painting, may be my example.
How do your Syrian roots affect art as a global citizen?
Syria is my motherland, it is the root that nourishes my soul. Every achievement in my life is part of my belonging to Syria.
Art needs strong inspiration to conquer hearts. My country is the first inspiration for my creativity, especially in light of the difficult circumstances it is going through — which makes my responsibility greater, because the message of peace must be present in my work as a Syrian artist who wants this message to manifest to the whole world.
Can you tell us about the similarities and differences between the Syrian and Emirati art world?
Art is art in all countries, but the change of country may affect only the subject of art. The general features of art are the same.
Another thing I want to point out is that art in the Emirates receives more attention, as there are many activities and exhibitions that are held continuously, which gives the artist more opportunities to show his creativity and help him spread his ideas in the world.
What roles do memory, imagination and observation play in the artist’s life?
No artist can be an artist without memory; it is memory that stimulates his imagination and leads him to creativity.
Memory, with all its pains or joys, is the fertile soil that grows inside the seed of any new work of an artist. Even if the artist wants to draw a natural scene or a picture of reality, his memory must be added to the work, subconsciously sometimes.
The artist is a different person: very observant, with a waking sense of sleep. His senses act like a camera, ready to capture the simplest situations and images to produce creative work, after imagination is added to it.
Are you stronger in drawing the human figure or in drawing urban scenes and landscapes?
In my experience, I find that I am stronger in drawing scenes and landscapes through artistic techniques. But I express feelings more creatively when I paint the human figure.
In your opinion, does art flourish in times of war or in times of peace? I think that in times of war, it will be more inspiring ... and I do not mean only wars between countries! It may be a war between a person and himself.
How much is Art a catharsis, hobby or profession?
It is a first-hand vent for me; it is not a hobby, but rather the whole life. It is the only place in the world where I find myself, as I am without the need to be drawn.
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