Artist Aya Charife’s ‘Eternal’ is a mark of the soul’s pilgrimage - GulfToday

Artist Aya Charife’s ‘Eternal’ is a mark of the soul’s pilgrimage

Aya Charife 11

The vase is a layered construction.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Ebullient young artist Aya Charife, whose irrepressible artistic talent has won her plenty of applause and many prestigious awards, has now created ‘Eternal’, a work of art in ceramic that, according to her, is “the replica of a person’s soul, influenced by environmental adaptations and surrounding interactions, one whose many layers of consciousness are fraught with fragility, yet with the strength of tolerance to withstand, and with a hollow middle for containing the perfect match.”

Charife answers Gulf Today’s questions – perhaps a perfect news match

Why did you choose the medium of ceramic to express your thoughts on the eternal?

Eternal is forever, where nothing truly lasts. That is why ceramic, a clay based material that is fragile enough to break at some point, leaving behind shattered pieces or fragments, was selected. We may have ideal thoughts; but everything shatters or changes at some point, when upgraded versions replace them. Therefore, nothing is memorable except for the essence of the fundamentals. I think the best selection of a material for human thought is a natural, basic element, excluded from all man-made extras. Ceramic is one such material.


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‘Eternal’ is a layered construction. Can you tell us what the layers consist of?

The layers portray how we see ourselves, the several aspects of a man, his constructive thoughts, the impact of surrounding nature on the formation of his thoughts, his decisions and life path. Our behaviour is the result of complex choices. If we are to think of the “whys” in our lives, I think they would resemble a seemingly puzzling overlay of patches of ceramics, set in apparently unruly order, to depict consecutive life selections. The complexity is what is seen in the ceramic; the course of actions and its showcasing connects events within a time frame and provides solidity. How we see each other is what the vase visually portrays.

The artwork almost seems like a womb. If so, why is it so?

In every man, there is a hollow portion yearning to be filled by what is considered perfect. The open portions of the vase indicate an unfulfilled state that waits to become complete. The solid state of the surrounding boundaries prevents uncontrolled expansion and forces the space to confine itself within an assigned form. But in this hollow portion, expansion can take place, decided by free choices …

Science and spirituality have affirmed that human beings have many layers of consciousness. Is your art influenced by this finding?

It is naturally individual to embrace personal multitudes; I can quote American poet Walt Whitman here:

“The past and present wilt — I have fill’d them, emptied them. And proceed to fill my next fold of the future. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes).”

Aya Charife 2  Award winning artist Aya Charife.

But along the path of life, portions of many convictions are lost. Sometimes we are reminded of them by others or by memory. We constantly revive these portions to create new layers or redefine our lives, just as Whitman said. Such understandings reshape how we view life from current perspectives - thus the asymmetry in the shape of the vase. The advancement into a person’s future path due to his many-layered decisions, is highlighted by the direction of each layer of the vase.

Has the world of flowers influenced your work? ‘Eternal’ has a resemblance to an unfolding flower …

At first glance, yes, it seems like an unfolding flower. But on careful observation, the directions of each layer differs, leaving the cocooned vase in a riot of forms, looped independently with intertwined patches, differently overlapping with individual lengths. Each aspect and characteristic in a man can be shown as a flower; but their variety has different orientations. 

Perhaps ‘Eternal’ has an anatomical aspect? Some of its features seem straight out of a medical book – such as a similarity to the brain …

‘Eternal’ may remind us of the cross-section of a brain by its various layers; but in fact it is closest to a cardiac vessel. The duality is there - be it cardiac or brain. But that is the choice of the observer and the interpretation best suits his state of consciousness. 

The middle of the work, as you point out, is empty, waiting to be filled with the perfect match. What is a perfect match for a person?

A perfect match is one with accepted imperfections. The Japanese have a name for it - wabi sabi. It teaches you to see beauty in imperfection, appreciate simplicity, and accept the transient nature of all things. It inspires you to simplify everything and concentrate on what truly matters. The vase has many hidden, narrow and inaccessible corners; I think a void is a place for a perfect match. The relationship between the entity, which is the vase, and its match needs to be as perfect as possible.

Can you tell us about how you researched your work?

I am a slow reader; I take time to visualise, analyse and create into a physical form, an idea that is held in a sentence. I find it rather easy to listen; the effort put into visualisation of what could go into a void is endless. I also add independent thoughts to what is visualised, creating layers of various selections. I choose to adopt forms that are my points of view.

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