Muse: Artist Dana Awartani on the universality of art

Saudi artist Dana Awartani talks to Arab News about curiosity and discipline. (Photo courtesy: Abdullah Al-Shehri)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Muse: Artist Dana Awartani on the universality of art

JEDDAH: The Saudi contemporary artist on curiosity, discipline, and the universality of art.

What I love about traditional Islamic art is that the underlying core — the language and geometry — transcends borders, it’s the same visual language used from China across the world to Spain, so it has a very unifying quality.

People who’ve never met me and look at my early works, which were more specifically looking at sacred art, think I’m calm and collected — especially since I work with such intricate details — but in actuality I’m the total opposite. I’m all over the place and scattered, but my art brings me peace and is my therapy. Focusing on art calms me down. I’m just like every other person going through everyday life, trying to find peace in this world.

As an artist, I’m always curious, always wanting to know more and because of this inquisition, you go through a constant evolution. I’m my own worst critic. I push myself very hard, but I’m very happy with my progress.

A journalist once approached me at an exhibition and, when he realized I wasn’t speaking fluent Arabic, used me as an example of why you shouldn’t send Saudi girls to study abroad. That infuriated me. I was really offended. I am who I am because I’ve lived and studied abroad.

I speak a universal language. Even if you don’t understand it, you can always appreciate its beauty. I believe in the beauty of art.

I have faced creative blocks. I have the form and I know the medium but I’m lost as to how I want to use it. Or vice-versa — I know what I want to say but I’m constantly at a loss as to how to say it. Speaking to other artists or curators can help, but I usually rely on my artistic intuition and research… visiting galleries and being with nature. Sometimes, I just have to wait it out and try to be proactive and not too hard on myself.

Being an artist requires discipline. You’re basically self-employed. You need to be committed; put in enough time for the work, invest in an education, be constantly present in your work. Being an artist is a lifestyle. It’s not a job.


‘Gold’ whips up India’s patriotism through hockey

Updated 54 min 22 sec ago
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‘Gold’ whips up India’s patriotism through hockey

CHENNAI: Sports films seem to be the fashion in India. In recent times, there has been “Soorma,” “Chak De! India,” “Mary Kom,” “Sala Khadoos” and “Lagaan.” And now it is Reema Kagti’s “Gold,” a fictional story loosely based on India’s first gold medal as an independent country at the 1948 London Olympics.
Bollywood bigwig Akshay Kumar, who has in recent years taken on the role of a patriotic Samaritan with movies like “Padman,” “Toilet,” “Airlift” and so on, portrays Tapan Das, a Bengali coach and manager of India’s field hockey team.
Dhoti-clad Das is passionate about the country’s national game, which has now been eclipsed by the glamorous and money-spinning cricket. A bit of a clown and an alcoholic, he somehow manages to convince the hockey federation that he can assemble a winning team and clinch the gold at the London Olympics, just a year after India became a free country. Putting together a team of players (Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Vineet Kumar Singh and Sunny Kaushal among others ), Das raises a battle cry: Let us avenge 200 years of British slavery by winning the hockey gold on their home turf!
The script and the way it has been narrated capture the essence of a newly independent India, struggling to cope with the blood and gore of the Partition, and it is a heart-rending human tragedy. What is more, “Gold” is a brutal reminder of how the division of the Indian subcontinent into two nations not only split the people, but also its sports and players. There is a poignant moment when we see Pakistani players cheering Indians on the field in what was to be one of the last examples of such unity.
Admittedly, Akshay carries the film with his antics, bordering on buffoonery, and an almost obsessive earnestness. But he appears to be playing this nation-building patriotic card a little too often, pushing us into a bit of boredom. “Gold” is not in the same league as “Chak De! India” or “Lagaan.” A certain novelty we saw in these two movies seems to have been lost.