A character lavishly displays her dress. Photos: Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Couture Divas, hosted March-end at Fann A Porter gallery, Dubai, in collaboration with Astrid Lesuisse, featured the works of Emirates-based artist Azaide.
Azaide is best known for her revolutionary embroidery technique that blends retro pop-art and traditional styles. The works were vibrant and expressive pieces that celebrated independent and strong women, in diverse settings. “It is important to highlight the beauty and courage of every woman,” says Azaide.
“Through my work, I pay a tribute to all of them. Being a woman, mum and an artist may be challenging, but Dubai has been great for honouring female artists and highlighting their work by having a proactive policy when it comes to women’s rights.”
Lesuisse has managed cultural events globally, built art communities, promoted artists, curated exhibitions, and sold art. “I am transferring the know-how acquired in Europe with the aim to contribute to Dubai’s growing prominence as a leading arts hub,” she says. Azaide and Astrid Lesuisse answer questions posed by Gulf Today, with Azaide taking up the baton first
What are the benefits threads give artmaking?
A thread and a needle are to me what a brush and paint are to a painter — my tools to converse with the viewer, and question issues of identity. Threads allow me to redefine traditional Eastern aesthetics while preserving heritage. When I am in the process of making embroidery art, I also feel I am in a safe place — non-judgmental and free from any adversity directed at me.
Can you take us through your creative process?
I make my vision a reality through the art of photography mixing my photographs with old black and white photographs from archives. I then create characters and imagine a story about them. They become icons, powerful women I look up to. One of the steps that I enjoy the most in my work is when I carefully and intricately embroider modern elements from pop culture on the dress. I love it when people wonder if the scenes really happened. I attend to blur the line between reality and fiction.
Why do you like colours?
Colour in art can evoke a mood or create a response in the viewer. I think that like stitching, shimmering colours are my antidote to release stress. I tend to use bright colours to deliver positive energy and intense emotions. I live for lush, bold colours that, in my opinion, make a statement in any space.
Your works seem more vogue than vintage. Would you care to comment?
In the Couture Divas collection, I highlight traditional Arab attire in a modern and funky way to match the popular fashion trends and lifestyles of our modern times. I strongly believe that it is important to remember one’s heritage while embracing modernity and looking towards the future.
What is the message for women and why do you use art as a medium for it?
Azaide is my middle name, given to me by my grandmother. Originally from Algeria, she travelled to Iran in the 1980s and fell in love with the name ‘Azadeh’, a Persian word meaning free-minded. She added her own touch and made it Azaide. I find the notion of emancipation hard to transmit verbally, whereas it comes freely through my art. My grandmother was a powerful woman, fighting for women’s rights in North Africa. I am proud to say that she is the inspiration behind the Couture Divas collection. My narrative aims to empower women to break boundaries and reach for their goals.
Astrid Lesuisse gives her answers
What is the quality in Azaide’s art that attracts you?
Azaide’s work speaks to people; it really does, just without words. When you stand in front of a piece by Azaide, you are able to relate to it because it sparks an intercultural dialogue, using a combination of vintage and vogue, tradition and innovation, West and East, art and fashion. When people view Azaide’s art, what is wonderful to witness is that her work communicates a language that we can all speak, and we are united and connected through it. And we all end up wanting to take part in the conversation.
You are French and the artist has French roots also. Besides, France has had a strong connection to the MENA region. Have these factors/how have these factors impacted you as a curator?
It’s interesting when it comes to the question of the roots. Azaide is a multi-faceted artist with French, Algerian, and Spanish heritage who grew up in Madagascar. Having developed a deep-seated passion for art during her upbringing, she ventured into the fashion industry in China before settling in Dubai in 2015. Azaide has learnt how to manage her own multiple cultural affiliations, which are embedded in her art. This explains her tremendous appetite for maintaining the thread between her diverse heritage and the cultures from the MENASA region, which she artfully interlaces in her work.
As a resident of UAE, how will you evaluate women’s role in its art scene?
I am confident in saying that the UAE is a model for women’s rights in the Middle East. It is interesting to see that women head most of the country’s art institutions, large and small. Of course, there is more work to be done, and I feel very grateful to be a part of the women who are shaping the creative landscape of the UAE and inspiring others today.
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