Moayad Lingga: The ‘archi-visualist’

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Updated 07 October 2015
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Moayad Lingga: The ‘archi-visualist’

Born and raised in Jeddah, 25-year-old Moayad Lingga grew up in an artistic home. In 2007, teenage Lingga moved to Portland, Oregon where he graduated from high school and still resides. Last year he graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and currently is interning at an advertising agency. Aside from his dedication and passion for what he does, what makes Lingga stand out is his appreciation and incorporation of art as a tool to tell a story. For this artist, he has chosen architecture, carpentry, Islamic art and graphic design to tell his story.
A self-taught carpenter, he finds gratification in working with wood as his main material, add metal welding to the project and he considers it also a learning experience. As a carpenter, he has enjoyed opportunities “to work first hand on a number of design-build community projects,” for the past five years. In addition, he has had the luxury of building his own furniture for his studio. Lingga sets himself apart from others by being completely hands-on from start to finish of a project. In contrast to other artists who might send their concepts to fabrication shops to be made, he explains, “I tend to create, and fabricate my own art.” This is evident from his documented work which is available to view on his website www.moalingga.com.

In an interview with Arab News, architect Moayad Lingga lays out what architecture means to him, how he creates art to tell his story, and the reception his work receives.

First, what inspires you?
Most of my work inspiration comes from everyday scenes of modern daily life, though I tend to highlight controversial ideas that initiate conversation. These arguments are usually both positive and negative and the vibe that they create end up fueling me to produce the next controversial work.

You began sketching floor plans at the age of nine. What about architecture that captured your attention and not to mention dedication?
Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” Architecture is a form of art that I have always wanted to master because historically architecture represented nations, cultures, and religions. Nothing is more powerful than designing a structure, which tells a story about itself without the need of human narration.
When I was little I used to redecorate my bedroom at least once every couple of months by moving the bed and my desk around. I found it very refreshing and entertaining to have the freedom to basically live whatever lifestyle I was into. Sometimes I had my bed next to a sunny window, or moved it away so the sun would not bother me.
I grew up wanting to design and build for others. A while ago, my ultimate dream was to have the challenge of an empty room with a description of a style and a limited budget to design, build, and decorate. That dream came true in 2013 when I was commissioned by a close friend in the States to completely redesign his small restaurant with a budget of only $500 and a time frame of two weeks. I was able to create what I would call satisfying results with that limited budget. From that point, my next ultimate dream got bigger, and it is now to design and build a whole office space or company.

You explain that your work is a reflection of the story of who you are and where you come from. Why did you choose carpentry to deliver this message?
Carpentry is a skill set and a powerful tool if one can take advantage of it. Most, if not the majority, of my art projects were done by hand from recycled or trashed wood that was found thrown away in recycling bins or on the street.
When living in a place like Portland, Oregon (the greenest city in the States) wood is one of the primary materials used everywhere. This results in a lot of discarded left over or trashed wood despite being in good condition. I spent the last few years getting to know the different types of wood while working with a lot of different types to master the skill and to be able to come up with my own techniques to build anything. I find wood as a material beautifully appealing and it carries a weight (literally) of the idea of the project.

Also, what drew you to Islamic art specifically?
Personally, I believed that the best way to represent who I am and where I came from is through expressing my endless addiction to Islamic patterns as seen while growing up in Roshan of Al-Mashrabya in the old houses of the Al-Balad area in Jeddah.
I was able to incorporate a similar geometric style used in a recent project called “The Other Mehrab,” which allowed Westerners to be immersed in the shadow of Islamic patterns when standing inside of the Mehrab.

Which do you feel expresses your message the most, your Islamic woodwork or your graphics?
A mixture of both; even though I dislike to be titled one thing over the other, but every project starts with a sketch on paper, then graphically designed on the computer in 2D to 3D. Finally, I make the actual project out of whatever material best represents the idea.
This leads me to talk about titles. Whether I do carpentry, sculptures, graphic design, film, or architecture I prefer to be called just an artist. Metaphorically, I think all small acts in our daily lives from eating to talking are considered art. Humans were created to always strive to master at least one or two and try to be good at the rest. Therefore, I think of everyone as a born artist, and I think kids should be reminded/motivated to be artists in their lives.

The shows and exhibitions you have participated in have been mostly in America. How has your Eastern and Islamic influenced artwork been received by Western audiences?
First of all, I find myself lucky to have exhibited in American exhibitions, but it is unfortunate that I was never able to exhibit my work in Saudi even after endless tries.
Westerners have always been very curious about the Eastern world. So whenever foreign artwork is exhibited they tend to want to learn about the personal, cultural, political, and often the religious aspects of the work. They show excitement and acceptance, which I find very comforting to any artist because it allows the artist to work without limits or boundaries to the their ideas no matter how difficult it is to be accepted sometimes.

Please tell us about Tarajom.
Tarajom is the art of recollecting important values from the past and presenting them in a modern way. It started as a series of art pieces, each one talked about a part of my history but in a metaphorical sense shaped in an old saying, “idiom.” These designs were first created on the computer, than laser cut on wood. After receiving a large amount of feedback, I decided to print these designs on shirts. My plan was to use the shirts as canvases for my art to be displayed everywhere all the time instead of a singular wooden piece in a singular gallery. So far, I have over 15 different designs and counting. The end goal is to establish Tarajom as an international brand where my art can be sold and be a larger umbrella for young artist collaboration.

What do you feel you have to offer to the thriving Saudi art community?
It is definite that the Saudi art community is in continuous growth, as I can see from social media. I have not worked nor presented my work in Saudi so my expectations are almost unexpected. But to be completely fair, whenever I post a picture of a wooden piece on Instagram, I receive many private messages from people asking what my major is and if this is part of the practice for that major. This indicates to me a percentage of people who are willing to get rough and dirty working in a shop for the sake of making something meaningful and dear to them.

Who have been your biggest supporters?
My biggest supporter is my father, Dr. Marwan Lingga. My father was a big part of my inspiration to work with my hands. Even though my family is always supporting me physically, economically, and emotionally, my father gives me the hardest time due to his continuous constructive criticism. We may have our differences and ways of seeing the world today, but he tends to criticize my work for the sake of pushing me to do better and to rework the idea to make it stronger. Aside from family, my close friends, loved ones, and people who follow my journey are strong supporters.

Email: [email protected]


Interview with the director and stars of ‘The Lion King’

Twenty-five years later, director Jon Favreau has brought “The Lion King” to life again for a new generation. (Supplied)
Updated 18 July 2019
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Interview with the director and stars of ‘The Lion King’

  • Jon Favreau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner discuss Disney’s latest blockbuster remake.
  • ‘We’re trying to live up to people’s imagination of what they remember ‘Lion King’ being,’ says Favreau.

DUBAI: There are few movies as resonant as Disney’s 1994 classic “The Lion King.” From its beautiful animation and memorable songs by Hans Zimmer and Elton John to its devastating emotional punch, the film has become a touchstone for an entire generation, one of the few films that unite nearly every person who has seen it across the world.

Now, 25 years later, director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “The Jungle Book”) has brought “The Lion King” to life again for a new generation. Sitting in London, the first thing Favreau asks Arab News is whether we were part of the “Lion King” generation, and we were, mentioning to Favreau just how expansive the film still feels to us.

 Chiwetel Ejiofor, Director and Producer Jon Favreau and Donald Glover attend the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" in Hollywood. (AFP)

“That’s part of the challenge here! We’re trying to live up to people’s imagination of what they remember ‘Lion King’ being. We would watch it next to one another and there’s certain sequences that hold up incredibly well that we tried to follow shot-for-shot like (the opening sequence) ‘Circle of Life,’ but there’s other areas where we had the opportunity to update it and make it feel a bit more grounded in reality,” Favreau tells Arab News.

Remaking it for a new generation seems obvious, but — to borrow from another Disney classic — it was a Herculean task for Favreau and the huge animation team that supported him. This version remains fully animated, but uses cutting-edge technology to make the entire film photo-realistic. The characters, story, and songs remain, but the film looks more like a David Attenborough nature documentary than an animated movie.

It wasn’t just the technology that proved challenging, either. Making sure that audiences still connect with these beloved characters without the expressiveness of classic Disney animation was something that gave Favreau pause.

(Supplied)

“I worked on ‘Jungle Book,’ so I had some experience in this area,” he says. “Pretty early on, we got to try some different things and when you go to human, you think it would make you feel more but it really feels kind of bizarre, at least to me. I was limited if we were to go photo-real. If you go stylized like Pixar it’s great, you can do whatever you want. If we go ‘Madagascar’ you can make them stick their tongues out. The minute you start hitting photorealism, you hit the uncanny valley when you push the performances beyond what the real animal could do. Part of what makes it look so real is we limited what we allowed the animators to do.”

To be sure that audiences would connect with the characters, Favreau relied a lot on the voices that supported them, bringing in an all-star cast including Beyoncé as Nala, Donald Glover as Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa.

“If you look at a character like Pumbaa, to me he’s the most fun example, because when people saw pictures of Pumbaa they were like, ‘Oh my god! That’s horrifying! That thing looks like a monster!’ But when you watch the movie and you hear Seth Rogen’s voice coming out of it and the way the animators animated his body and what the character represents and feels, you have a tremendous connection to it. It’s a testament to the power of using techniques that we borrowed from documentaries or other films, where we limit ourselves to not anthropomorphize the characters,” says Favreau.

(Supplied) 

Eichner and Rogen both tried to remain true to the characters, but also stay true to themselves. “My idea from the beginning was that Jon cast us for a reason,” says Eichner. “He could have cast pretty much any actors. Anyone would have killed to do these roles and be in this movie. It wasn’t the right time to try a new persona. It would have been very strange had I all of a sudden had a deep resonant baritone. I figured he wants Seth to sound like Seth and me to sound like me — or at least what our public comic personas sound-like — and hopefully they’ll complement each other, which they did. Our goal was not to try a new character but to be as funny as possible together.”

As funny as Rogen and Eichner are in the film, it is still aimed firmly at kids — something Rogen hadn’t really considered prior.

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen at the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" in Hollywood . (AFP)

“It wasn’t something that even occurred to me until we were making the movie and I was performing the bully scene,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is for kids!’ I have never done anything that was ever trying to instill any wisdom into kids in any way shape or form.”

The film’s wisdom, like the original, is far-reaching, exploring truths not only of family and loss, but of the corrupting nature of ambition and power, which Ejiofor explored in his role as Scar.

“Often, when people are obsessed with power and status, they aren’t really worried about what they do with it, they’re just concerned about getting it. It’s not something that’s connected to any kind of nurturing aspect for a community or anybody else. It becomes about the nature of obsession — obsession with power and status, and maybe status more than power, even though they are related,” says Ejiofor. “That’s one of the things that’s engaging and fun about the film and its themes.”