Sealine Symposium

Welcome board at the entrance of the Wyndham Hotel
The artists at the Sealine camp. Image credited to Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel.
There’s something about being at the beach where the artistic creation takes hold. Maybe it’s the ingrained notion that the sight of the sea conjure up thoughts of holidaying, exploration, building gratifying castles of crude dimensions in the sand or your ever present bikini-clad babe. Maybe being away from the hustle and bustle of city life awakens the sleepy artist within us. Whatever the motivations or reasons for that jolt of inspiration, there’s no denying that the creative juices are pumped up and heightened when we are by the sea.

The recent first edition Al Asmakh Fine Art Symposium; a week-long cultural excursion/workshop/brainstorming session held from the 16-21 of March has those sealine inspirations right by immersing its participants in a wholly creative setting at the south of Qatar where the Sealine Beach meets the dazzling Arabian Sea. The symposium concluded on 21 March with a culmination of pieces by its 22 participants - contemporary artists from 14 countries including Qatar, Iraq, Italy, Sudan, Sweden, the Netherlands, India, Bahrain and Morocco. The 40 works of art are now on permanent display at the Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel in Doha, Qatar.

A visitor peruses through the official brochure complete with artists' profiles and backgrounds
We arrived just as about the awards were being given out and the ballroom was abuzz with excitement. Seemingly one of the first of its kind, and hopefully the start of many more like it, the international art symposium attracted a fair number of media attention as well as a generous turnout of guests. Not to be confused with the concurrently running art events such as Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennial, Al Asmakh serves not a commercial art fair but instead a cultural and art appreciation symposium with the main aim of establishing Qatar as a viable global art platform.

Among the newly created showpieces filling up the Wyndham Al Qasr ballroom turned art gallery; were two mixed media paintings by Iraqi author and artist Ashna Ahmed Dawlat who grew up in Kurdistan Iraq and is currently stationed in Sweden. “These depict the diaspora of my people. Wherever they go for however long a period of time, they are always welcomed back,” Ashna said. “I've also mixed sand from the Sealine into the paint for a raw and natural finish that brings out the definition of the desert.” I found her paintings particularly pleasing; with jewel tones and smooth curves that could very well set an appropriate base for  fabric print.

On a more playful note, Netherlander Alik Assatrian goes the bubbly direction with his cartoon-like figures and carefully etched Arabic writing in his two-piece copper toned work. His work depicts a unified, global take on the symposium as the Armenian born artist and filmmaker goes the extra mile with some translation assistance from a fellow participant to incorporate a part of all 22 participants with their names written in Arabic despite not knowing the language himself. After a quick chat on inquiring our perspective of the exhibition, Alik was quick to ask for a photograph of us and not the other way around as I would have done so many other times. I thought that was a rather amusing moment seeing as we were the visitors and he, the artist.

Al Asmakh marks the start of new international melting of creative minds in Qatar and hopefully will inspire more artistic forums to follow suit. Baby steps but there's potential here surely. There’s no denying that a burgeoning interest and demand for contemporary works has been steadily arising from the Middle East. While Qatar is making headway as the largest buyer of contemporary art; there’s still much to be done for the gas-rich state to successfully assert itself as a force in the art market. Perhaps we'll see an Art Doha soon? Fingers-crossed. 


Occasional hand model with a taste for adventure.

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