There’s more to art in Doha than what’s on the walls in the major galleries. And Marjolijn Stolk Veenhuis wants to make sure you see it. ‘It’s more difficult, as it’s not so easy to be able to exhibit your work in local galleries or public places. These venues are usually reserved for Arab artists,’ she tells us.
Originally from The Netherlands, Marjolijn has been in Doha since 2009. Self-educated as a painter, she started taking art classes while studying psychology in California. Back home, she’s been a member of art circles for years – but in Qatar, she had a hard time finding the rocks other expat artists were hiding under. So, she decided to start something, and hoped they would come. ‘I don’t know the exact number, but I know there are many international artists in Doha. This is why a few of us set up the International Artists Doha group and hope many more will join us in future exhibitions,’ she says.
The group recently held its first art exhibit, with work produced in Qatar by expat artists. It went so well, Marjolijn says, they intend to make this an often-repeated performance. ‘The art exhibition was a great success,’ she confirms. ‘There were at least over 100 pieces on display, and throughout the whole day hundreds of visitors came to see the exhibition. It’s a wonderful way to show your work to the public.’
A lot of the work being produced by the group is actually about Qatar. Local Qatari and Arabic artists have been highlighted in recent years, however expat artists are as entranced with the culture and landscape of the country as nationals. Marjolijn has focused on everyday things she sees around her in her latest series, Qataresque. ‘I find it hard not to paint. It’s a force within me to create what I see,’ Marjolijn says. Qataresque entails my vision and story of Qatar using local landmarks, combined with mixed media elements super positioned on an abstract background, which after a closer look prove to be a map of Qatar. This series goes beyond the glamour of the new office towers at the Corniche, searching for the few remaining pockets of national heritage, and emphasises the simple beauty of traditional Arab everyday life.’
Marjolijn and her fellow artists in the International Artists Doha group say that being able to reproduce what they see and be inspired by the world around them helps them make sense of and appreciate the foreign country they have found themselves in. ‘My motivation comes from within me.
To create what I see around me, the way I perceive things. I get inspired by everyday life,’ says Marjolijn. ‘With my camera always with me in the car, I make pictures of all the little “paintings” I see around me in the city, in the desert or just on the street. These pictures are then used for my work. I also use recent newspaper clippings, things I find in the desert or anything.’
With the opening of several new, world class galleries in the last few years in the city – most recently Mathaf – there’s never been a better time to be an artist in Qatar. It’s something Marjolijn and her fellow artists hope only keeps growing. ‘It’s important to have an art scene in Qatar, as there are many artists who would like to show their work to the public,’ Marjolijn argues.
‘And there’s a large public that is interested to see international art, but don’t know how to get in contact with it. I hope our International Artists Doha group will fill that gap.’
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