Mohamad McKouk interview

Artist, architect and sculptor reveals his most precious designs

Mohamad McKouk interview

What drove you to become an artist?
I cannot tell if I have been driven to art as much as I’m driven by art. Visuals occupy our daily life, the house we live in, the city we circulate through, the phone we carry, the landscape we gaze at, the car, the urban planning, the shirt we wear and the shoes we walk in. Art and design is everywhere, it either puts us in an inspiring positive mood if we are at harmony with our surroundings, or drains us if the realm we function in is not appealing. Art drifts naturally, it is not a matter of choice.

Did you know from an early age you had artistic ability?
I’ve always been fascinated by spontaneous art. What I mean by spontaneous is the art that occurs naturally without the intention of really doing art as a purpose. I used to collect stones and build cities for ants; we had a huge garden and the whole garden was literally filled by littles stones arranged in a circular, vertical form. From a distance, it appeared like a huge city of colosseums and labyrinths, inhabited by ants. It was so much fun!

What kind of artist are you? A painter, sculptor? Can you turn your hand to many different forms of art?
A multi-disciplinary artist, I guess. Versatility in design can only be based on research.

And can your art be categorised?
It is a terrible thing when art is categorised. I believe that art falls into every single profession, that is why the term ‘visual artist’ is widely used today. A taxi driver is an artist if he knows how to take the shortest way and drive swiftly through the streets, just like a painter who makes you feel something when observing his visual work.

Does the Anima Gallery showcase much of your personal work?
I have been nurtured to a great extent by Anima Gallery. Mrs. Sholy (owner and founder of Anima Gallery) has been a driving force and inspiration. We worked together on the Kempinski Marsa Malaz hotel project, especially the visualisation of the oyster chandeliers, ‘The Tree of Life’, and the pomegranate sculptures that dominate the lobby’s visual impact.

I have showcased several installations and paintings at Anima. Anima Gallery is an amazing portal for every single type of art, from customised healthy food in the lounge, to intricate exhibitions. We are still a young gallery, but in three years we accomplished what most galleries would achieve in decades.

What is your latest project at Anima Gallery?
At Anima Gallery, we are always busy, and working on several projects in Qatar, Beirut, Europe and New York. In addition, we have bi-monthly exhibitions for top artists like Fernando Botero and Ali Hassan.

And what have you designed in the past?
In the past I designed furniture. My concept was ‘memory furniture’, where your physical print is left for 30 seconds on the sofa, which is made out of memory foam. I also worked for so many private residences in Beirut and Saudi Arabia, and I was working as an interior architect in a design studio in Beirut. The general feel of the whole design is minimal and contemporary. I worked as a visual designer for Dior, Fendi, Balenciaga, Pucci, Agent Provocateur and many international brands, which was basically the window design and visual merchandising.

What do you hope people get from your work?
Design and art should make people happy and inspired, if it doesn’t then the artist failed.

What was the thought process with your latest art at the Marsa Malaz Kempinski?
The feedback is positive: every time I go there, I see people taking pictures. It is kind of strange how alien that feeling is. You pass by and they would never guess that you took part in that. It is a good feeling, though.

Which piece of art are you most proud of, and why?
The Tree of Life, definitely. It took so much work and effort, and the production was very complicated, and installing it took almost a month. It dangles gracefully from the dome, like a lucid dream that turned into reality.

Where do you get inspiration from when you begin to think of ideas for your art?
Research. I think of an idea and try to figure it out through constant readings and dwellings.

Take us through how you design/draw a piece of art. What are the processes and stages?
I used to sketch a lot, unfortunately now I simply use computer generated sketches. Sad, I know, but this makes practical life easier. It is much simpler to discuss a clear sketch with technical people than a conceptual sketch.

Has your artistic style changed over the years, and do you think it will in the future?
Constant development might influence the technical implementation, but what I aim for is to reach complete transparency and honesty when working on my personal art. As you see, a piece of art has to survive; commissioned work is much more different than a personal one. It is an oxymoron, a kind of paradox: what you do to survive and what you aspire for as an artist in terms of concept and progressive ideas.

What project would you really like to work on?
I would like to make a short movie. I know its crazy, but I find myself a kind of storyteller. I love telling stories and cinema is the climax of art; it is multidisciplinary and requires tremendous honesty, sensitivity and synergy among the people working together to realise a short motion picture. There is literature, poetry, music, light, actors, directors…. it is my dream to be able to accomplish that.

Do you personally like the overall art scene in Doha?
Yes, I do. We are part of the art scene in Doha. This city has so much to offer for art and artists.

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