International Artists of Doha

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22 local artists will exhibit their work this month at the International Artists of Doha’s second annual exhibition. Lisa Travell finds out how the art made it to the wall.

Qatar is in the midst of a cultural evolution and its influence reaches much further than Richard Serra’s towering 80-foot sculpture in MIA’s new park. In 2011 Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani was ranked the ‘Art World’s Most Influential Person’ and in the same year Qatar purchased Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players for a record $250 million. Meanwhile galleries continue to open across Doha, with the National Gallery set for completion in 2014. This is country serious about art.

On a much smaller scale the local art scene is proving equally as vibrant with groups such as International Artists Doha (IAD) bringing together Doha’s professional expat artists. Marjolijn Stolk helped found IAD when she arrived three years ago, realising the need for a group where expat artists could come together to share ideas, exhibit work and hold workshops.

She explains how it all began. ‘We held our first exhibition in March 2011 at QIPCO compound. At that point we were only ten artists. It was a big success and the papers reported us as being an ‘International Artists’ group so we liked the name and took it!’

The group now has over 22 members from 13 different countries, the rapid growth of IAD prompting Marjolijn to take the group onto Facebook, where members’ work can be displayed. ‘When we started to get more artists I founded the Facebook page and we have over 450 likes now,’ she says.

Men and woman are welcome to join the group however Marjolijn points out that standards are necessarily high. ‘We do have a certain level of professionalism as we want to portray ourselves as a professional art group – I know a lot of people paint but you have to be a certain level to join.’

IAD meet every six weeks at ‘ARTogethers’ where they paint, show work or hold workshops and for the second year running they are holding their annual exhibition in March at Qatar Foundation. ‘We have a theme this year called ‘Between Cultures’ – it’s the first exhibition with a theme. Last year we had ten artists but this year we have 22 - we have evolved but that’s the international environment,’ explains Marjolijn.

The artists have been working towards the exhibition and Marjolijn’s impressive and colourful canvases stand ready in her home studio. ‘I have two big panels to showcase – I have moved onto mosques as I find the forms fascinating. I don’t paint them exactly as they look plus I add colour,’ she says. All the works at the exhibition will be for sale and Marjolijn says prices will be are affordable. ‘It won’t be like galleries with works for QR30,000!’

The group will also be displaying their ‘30x30’ project. Each artist will be contributing a 30 x 30 cm artwork, which will be hung on one wall to give an overall impression of the art, and talents, within the group. Set to create an impressive display Marjolijn explains the additional benefits of the project. ‘The funding on the sale of these will be going towards the group as we have no sponsors as such, although Qatar Foundation are kindly sponsoring the forthcoming exhibition.’

Marjolijn has been astounded by the rate IAD, and the art scene in general, has grown. ‘A few years ago there were hardly any galleries, even over the last three years big galleries have opened like Mathaf, Anima, Al Riwaq and those in Katara. It’s really taken off because of Sheikha Al Mayassa - she is very much involved in promoting the art scene here.’

Whilst many may still see Qatar as a blank canvas, to the trained eye its much more. ‘I am influenced by Qatar as a country; I like the tradition - the difference between the East and the West. I always have my camera with me and take pictures to use in my paintings - I’m inspired by where I am. I paint because I want to tell the story of where I’ve been and what I’ve done; I want to show the path of my life,’ says Marjolijn.
International Artists Doha exhibition at Qatar Foundation Recreation Center in the Al Qool Hall in Education City runs from May 1-4. Grand opening on May 1, 6pm-8pm, May 2, 10am-6pm, May 3, 12pm- 6pm and May 4 10am to 4pm. For more, check out IAD on Facebook.

By Lisa Travell
Time Out Doha,

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