DUBAI: The Syrian-Cuban artist discusses his digital artwork that was showcased at Art Dubai in March.
I was born in Miami, but my mother is from Cuba, and my dad from Syria. Growing up in Miami, the Hispanic side felt fulfilled, because I had friends who spoke Spanish and I speak Spanish fluently. But ties to the Middle Eastern side faded off, as my grandparents passed away and I didn’t speak Arabic.
I always found that carpets felt nostalgic. They reminded me of when I was younger. The ones that were family heirlooms, we showcased them on walls. Carpets in general, design-wise, were always intriguing to me. I spent time in Syria, Istanbul, and Iran, studying under actual carpet weavers to understand how they are made so that I can then take it and hopefully make it new and exciting for younger generations to come.
The goal of this piece, for which I worked off an existing carpet, was to make this new, to add life to it. A carpet is just a still image, but when you’re working digitally with animation, you can paint a more complete picture and show what’s really happening. It’s like a comic book, and with this medium, we can narrate as much as we want.
I always start off on an iPad. For this piece, the digital designs existed in my hard drive as reference images for paintings. Once I saw a way of bringing those designs together into works of their own, that became really exciting for me.
It was brought to life by 3D-sculpting every element in it. Every flower, leaf, and vine is 3D-rendered. When you animate something like this, you have to do “rigging,” which is essentially a skeleton that goes inside of the animal or the flower that allows it to move naturally.
Each frame is done individually. When you’re working on something that has so many moving parts, you never know if, when it comes together, it’s going to be nauseating. Part of it is finding the right pace for the animation; this is a 20-second synchronized loop. I wanted it to feel like a symphony — calming and therapeutic, like looking through a window on a spring morning. When it all came together, it was so rewarding.