Sixteen design projects by students at Virginia Commonwealth University

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Dezeen School Shows: a pair of hand-woven, hand-dyed rugs depicting urban development in Qatar is included in this school show by Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar.

Also included is a series of gold vessels designed to be used in the Muslim cleansing ritual Wudhu before prayer and a suspended sculpture made up of glass droplets.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar

Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar)

School statement:

“To mark the university’s 25th anniversary, VCUarts Qatar is hosting an exhibition of 39 alumni works with curatorial assistance from art history graduates Teslim Sanni, Sara Mohammed and Anusheh Zaman.

“The poetic title of the exhibition, This Sand is Made of Stars/This Sea is Made of Pearls – Horizon Historiographies, is inspired by these alumni, their projects and Qatar, the country in which they studied.

“Their works are presented as a curated series of narratives or historiographies and are reminiscent of the local fables of Al Khor, tales that were once narrated when people gathered around a fire, keeping memory and faith alive.

“Through this story-telling approach, the curatorial narrative highlights the importance of a country’s past in shaping its creative future, drawing a parallel with how the history of an academic institution shapes the future of its students.

“The works are visionary and immersive, moving and reflective. They echo the restless, rhythmic movement of Qatari people as they travelled over the sands and seas in search of hidden treasures.

“They draw inspiration from the past yet project new horizons that use new technologies and methods to envision a future of hope and creative excellence.

“Based on the common themes that are found within each work, the exhibition develops across four chapters: The Sacred, The Water (Sea), The Land (Sand), and The Self and The Other.”

Less Water More Holy by Faheem Khan

“Less Water More Holy showcases a series of contemporary vessels designed to make the personal gesture of cleansing before prayer more spiritual and sustainable.

“Khan executed the concept through a two-part investigation of the eight-step ritual ablution known as Wudu, which Muslims perform five times a day.

“He analysed how in today’s process of Wudu, most people consume up to four to seven litres of water, which is more than the 650 millilitres the Prophet Muhammad required to complete Wudu.

“Based on this, the artist proposed eight individual artefacts designed to show how little water is needed for each step of Wudu.

“Lessons extracted from this analytical phase informed a more reflective and sustainable ritual ablution, modelled on and inspired by the teachings of the Prophet.”

Student: Faheem Khan
Course: BFA Graphic Design and MFA Design

The Construction Pipes/The Construction Barriers by Maryam Al Homaid

“Hand-coloured and hand-woven pieces in this project aim to capture the lively essence of Qatar’s urban scene and share the artist’s interpretation of the bustling construction sites across Doha.

“Pipes serve as vital infrastructure elements that facilitate the growth, development and modernisation of the nation’s urban landscape.

“Carrying utilities such as water, sewage and gas, they form ever-growing webs throughout Qatar, a dynamic which the artist intricately weaves into the webs of her textiles.

“Growing up in an artistic household, Al Homaid witnessed the drastic, fast-paced economic and social development in the country.

“Changes in local lifestyle, language, behaviour, technology and architecture greatly influenced her art and can be seen intertwined within her artistic endeavours in digital and textile design.”

Student: Maryam Al Homaid
Course: BFA Graphic Design and MFA Design

Fragmented Realities by Hadeer Omar

“The immersive audiovisual installation Fragmented Realities explores the realm of dreams as a wellspring of inspiration and storytelling.

“Omar presents dreams in their uncontrollable and unrepeatable nature, eliciting introspection and scepticism for what constitutes reality.

“She uses visual and vocal symbolism to help the observer decipher the meaning of dreams and discover an underlying harmony amid the abyss of chaos.

“Omar is an Egyptian new media artist and assistant professor at VCUarts Qatar whose work centres on exploring socio-cultural issues through immersive XR media, graphics, photography, A/V performances, 360 storytelling and video art installations.”

Student: Hadeer Omar
Course: BFA Graphic Design and MFA Design

So Be Patient by Ghada Al Khater

“So Be Patient is a playful take on the difficult and rewarding process of being patient by Qatari artist Al Khater.

“It suggests that to practice patience, one must be endowed with characteristics that abandon limitations brought by schedules. For example, strength is a characteristic displayed in the heat of the moment.

“Patience, however, is dependent upon charting the unknown factor of the passage of time, a sacred journey that can only be led by faith.

“It requires a combination of courage, strength and faith all at once. Al Khater states that the be patient ‘is to live elegantly and eloquently’.

“Her work is a satirical commentary on regional events and relevant international affairs.”

Student: Ghada Al Khater
Course: BFA Graphic Design

Cyberlahore by Hazem Asif

“This project imagines the Pakistani city Lahore in 2069 – a majestic hub of hybrid cultures, languages and politically active residents.

“The city of Lahore might look perfectly normal, but now and then, power-hungry politicians, capitalism, religious autocracy and excessive pollution crack through its polished surface.

“Set in Cyberlahore, an artistic illustration of a future Lahore, the project invites the audience into a colourful and intricate representation of urban sites and human-made crises and transports them to a different world, getting lost in the intricate details of the story.

“Through his work, Asif aims to create design that bridges historical, political and social issues to formulate creative and meaningful design narratives.”

Student: Hazem Asif
Course: BFA Graphic Design and MFA Design Studies

Mohasir Mohasar by Majdulin Nasrallah

“Mohasir Mohasar, or Besieger-Besieged, is a metaphor for a two-way siege. The work is a reflection on the checkpoints, roadblocks and other elements of control used by Israel in occupied Palestine.

“This work explores the notion of borders as physical and psychological constructs and presents the audience with an interactive steel cage, aiming to reflect the contrasting dynamic of liberation and confinement encapsulated by the duality of political barriers.

“The bars of the cage form the shape of a seat as they protrude outward and inward, inviting the besieger and the besieged to swap positions, have a conversation and perceive space from a different angle.

“Emphasis is placed on the human experience, exploring the relationship and dialogue between the body, mind and built environment.”

Student: Majdulin Nasrallah
Course: BFA Interior Design

Yolkkh, The Story of My People by Amna Yandarbin

“Yolkkh, The Story of My People, presents a series of scarves with digitally designed illustrations that tell the story of the designer, Yandarbin, and her people, the Noxci people.

“The Noxci are more commonly known as Chechens from the Russian moniker.

“The work aims to counteract the dehumanisation and demonisation that Yandarbin witnessed from western media of her Muslim community.

“In sharing her story, which paints an intergenerational journey from childhood to a vision of the future, she aims to give a voice to the Noxci community, stand against Islamophobia, and use the power of storytelling to inform and connect with the audience in an empathetic and human way.”

Student: Amna Yandarbin
Course: BFA Fashion Design and MFA Design Studies

Subjected Subjects by Habeeb Futtaim

“The almost abstract pictorial work titled Subjected Subjects is a representation of a group of male figures dressed in flowing garments, where one single person or face cannot be distinguished from the other – a symbol of a unified whole.

“This work is the outcome of constant exploration and inquiry into the complexity and absurdity of people’s cultural and political identities, specifically the Arab identity.

“Research investigated the impact of western hegemonic endeavours in the West Asian region’s cultural production and its relation to nation-building and identity-building exercises as a collective.

“In an attempt to demystify the essentialist notions of homogenous identities, the project deconstructs the visual elements and symbolisms associated with national and cultural identity building.”

Student: Habeeb Futtaim
Course: BFA in Painting and Printmaking with a minor in Art History, and MFA in Museums and Gallery Practice

Cultural Misfits by Izaa Alyssa

“The installation Cultural Misfits showcases two captivating poems that dive into the profound accumulation of cross-cultural experiences of third culture kids and the feelings of rootlessness and restlessness that often haunt these young people seeking to establish their personal agency.

“The poem Invisible Lines is a poignant composition by Joud Ghaliyani, a Jordanian-Palestinian poet in Qatar, while Passenger is an empowering piece written by Nour Khairi, a Sudanese poet residing in England.

“Visual elements crafted by Shima Aeinehdar, an Iranian illustrator and VCUarts Qatar alumna based in Qatar, accompany the compositions.

“Together, these artistic expressions evoke a multi-dimensional experience, inviting profound contemplation of the intricate nuances of multiculturalism and the deep sense of belonging that arises from navigating multiple worlds.

“In her work, Alyssa seeks to highlight the complexities of crossing cultures and the transition into adulthood through visual storytelling.”

Student: Izaa Alyssa
Course: BFA Graphic Design

Lines of Illumination by Noora Al Hardan

“Lines of Illumination showcases the geometric and architectural tradition of Doha by illuminating the unique interplay of light, images and nostalgia inspired by a home in Qatar.

“Taking inspiration from light leaks of analogue films, the artist envelopes the house in the image in a faded neon green aura that emanates a subtle energy to symbolise the intangible impressions and memories.

“Through this work, Al Hardan encourages the audience to experience familiar spaces through a lens that purposefully blurs the boundaries between reality and perception.

“By delving into this immersive visual narrative, the artwork enables viewers to embrace the interplay between light, shape and memory.

“Through her work, the Qatari artist seeks to capture images of abandoned architectural spaces in Qatar and alter them to shed light on what is often overlooked or forgotten.”

Student: Noora Al Hardan
Course: BFA in Painting and Printmaking

Tawasil Series by Shouq Al Mana

“The Tawasil Series of paintings features themes celebrating the Qatari family unit, tradition and customs, aiming to envelop elements of Qatari identity and cultural solidarity.

“Undulating brushstrokes capture the fluid movement of traditional garments, like waves upon the surface of the sea.

“The work and choice of symbols – the egal, a headpiece typically worn by men, as well as the shaila, a lightweight headscarf worn by women – pay homage to Qatari heritage and traditions that have been passed down through generations.

“Through this series, Al Mana aims to create works that are accessible and relatable to viewers, allowing the audience to form their own relationship with the work and to stimulate broader conversations about Qatari culture and identity.”

Student: Shouq Al Mana
Course: BFA Painting and Printmaking

The Waste Land by Fatima Mohammed

“In The Waste Land, a poetic short film, the natural world and the effects of human intervention on the environment unite on the garments of the main character Anaj, a wanderer.

“The character is a hybrid of a Western and Qatari creature that is both a bald eagle and a human.

“Drawing inspiration from the batoola, a gold mask worn by local women for many years, the Anaj mask embodies the artist’s endeavour to inspire society to be free and to take pride in their values and dreams.

“Anaj, dressed in clothes made of recycled water bottles and an abaya decorated with a thousand plastic feathers, silently walks and explores a surreal location in Qatar, beguiling the audience to question the elements of the composition and what belongs within the environment.”

Student: Fatima Mohammed
Course: BFA Painting and Printmaking, minor in Art History

Reclamation of Self by Hassan al Shehhi

“Reclamation of Self is an installation that aims to capture the intensity of a moment where emotions pour out of us in the form of tears, much like rain flows down from the sky.

“The artwork is inspired by the anxiety, anger, isolation and a host of other powerful emotions that encompassed the new reality that the artist and people all over the world experienced during Covid-19.

“Finding symbolism through glass and water as metaphors for lightness and tears, strength and an unburdening, the artist created a symphony of a raining dark cloud to represent the negativity overshadowing one’s inner being.

“It is just like a heavy heart that holds onto a burden until it bursts, allowing the heaviness to pour out and relief to find a place inside one’s core.”

Student: Hassan al Shehhi
Course: BFA Painting and Printmaking

Galaxy by Lauren Morell

“Galaxy is a garment that flows like water and ripples like the sea when a soft breeze runs over its surface.

“It is a piece imbued with symbolism that holds deep personal meaning for the artist – Morell draws her inspiration from her attachment to Qatar and the Middle East.

“Like a gravitational pull between forces of attraction, the design uses two different textures – silk and a pleated cotton silk mix – fused together to become one whole.

“This conjoining reflects Morell’s connection to the Middle East, as well as her fondness for modesty and purity.

“The waves rippling through the fabric with the wind resembles her journey in the desert of life, how far she has come, and the hard work she put in for her present-day achievements.”

Student: Lauren Morell
Course: BFA Fashion Design

The Sacred Union by Othman Al Khunji

“The Sacred Union is an installation crafted from marble, metal and clay where the materials and forms intend to remind us of the steady union of all that is bound together by faith.

“The Sacred Union is a bespoke diptych that encapsulates the heritage, religion and culture of Arabian Gulf citizenry.

“Minimal in design, yet captivating in its amalgamated presence, the work proudly stands its ground, distinctly sealed by Islamic testimony, cultural pride and eternal vows.”

Student: Othman Al Khunji
Course: MFA Design

Untitled by Yousef Bahzad

“This painting is part of a series produced by Qatari-American visual artist Bahzad for his solo exhibition during his residency at the Doha Fire Station museum in 2021.

“In this untitled work, a figure stands like a solid rock on the water’s edge.

“A ceaseless pounding of waves is carved by time into its form that morphs and changes before the viewer’s eyes, yet remains constant and inert in its painted stillness.”

Student: Yousef Bahzad
Course: BFA in Painting and Printmaking, minor in Art History

Partnership content

This school show is a partnership between Dezeen and Virginia Commonwealth University. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.

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