January 28, 2013

Art Focus: Shurooq Amin

Up Close and Personal With Shurooq Amin

I caught up with a superhero that walks amongst us.
Her powers go beyond the borders of Kuwait. Her x-ray vision can penetrate souls and relay emotions onto a canvas. She commands the room even in sweat pants.
We discussed art, motherhood, talent, society norms and the meaning of love.
It’s true that women bear life’s greatest burden and because we overcome them we become modern day superheros and that is what Shurooq Amin is. Her super power is not just the ability to tell stories through art; her super power is breathing emotion into the canvas-which is a unique and often rare ability nowadays.

GCK: It’s almost been a year since “It’s A Man’s World” exhibition was shut down. What have you been up to?
ShurooqThe shutdown of my show fed my determination and fueled my passion to speak up even more. I immediately started working on the new series, Popcornographic – a series of artworks that tackle sensitive topics like child marriages, censorship, tattoos, Sunni & Shi'a issues, etc. I've kept a pretty low profile this past year, avoiding most social gatherings, public events, etc, choosing instead to stay in the studio and work my a** off, thereby staying at home so I can keep an eye on my son, who has not been well. This past year I also got some diverse offers for representation and participation in events & group shows. Again, I avoided most offers, choosing instead one clear path.: I'd always dreamed of being represented by one super gallery, a gallery that has the right genuine intentions with a vision to allow Arab artists to take over the world (is that too much? I don't think so...I believe we can, because – frankly – even though we don't have as many opportunities or buyers as the West, we do, however, have more tragedies and crises to go through on a global scale, politically, socially, and religiously, thus more subject matter translated into public expression). When Ayyam Gallery contacted me, I had no doubt that this was going to be my artistic home and my future “family”. Despite the fact that I had heard wonderful things about Ayyam, I actually based my decision on pure instinct and went with it. I can tell you the two highlights of my year have been: preparing the new series for Ayyam Gallery, and my painting being auctioned off at Christie's in Dubai in April 2012, making me the first Kuwaiti female artist to be featured at Christie's.

"Loves In The Air"

"My Harem In Heaven"

GCK: How did you emotionally, mentally and physically get through the period that came after the shutdown of A Man’s World?
Shurooq: It was an emotional roller-coaster, because I was vacillating between depression and joy. It was depressing to see my work so unjustly treated, yet it was exciting to see the positive support I got from around the world. Physically I was a wreck, because 3 days prior to my show, I was in a serious car crash that sandwiched my car to smithereens (it took 4 months in the garage to fix) and which left me with severe whiplash and other injuries. If you see any photos from my show, you'll see that I was wearing a medical neck brace. I stayed up in bed the night before my show painting my neck brace to match my dress and just made the most of it.

GCK: As a storyteller, what is the story behind “it’s a man’s world” series?
Shurooq: To portray a slice of life in the Arabian Gulf by exploring the underground life of Khaleeji men, which is rife with hypocrisy, paradoxes and oodles of naughtiness.

"I like Him I Like Her"

"Arabian Gothic"

GCK: What does being an artist mean to you between now and Society Girls?
Shurooq: It means first and foremost: making a difference. Enlightening the narrow-minded, raising questions despite how many boats will be rocked in the process, opening dialogues so that we can all learn and grow and evolve as a society. By the way, when I work on these socio-political artworks, dealing with social and political issues around me, I am learning and evolving, too. I am becoming a better human being through the creative process, both technically as an artist and personally as a human being.
         Secondly, it means: being part of a cultural landscape; to reflect life in this century, to be part of art history, to be a pioneer, to represent Arab women against all odds. These things are crucial to putting Arab art on the map.

Society Girls

GCK: Being an expressive artist beyond the limits is never an easy pursuit in any society, what is your biggest inspiration?
Shurooq: My first inspiration was my father. He taught me to dream big and gave me incredible self-confidence and belief in myself and my abilities. I still – perhaps naively but it works for me anyway- believe I can do anything if I set my mind to it. So I have no limitations and no fear of the unknown. Whereas most people find the unknown and the future daunting, I find it thrilling and I thrive on it.
          My current inspiration is my children, my two boys and two girls. I want to be a role model for them by showing my girls what a woman can accomplish, and by showing my boys what a woman is worth.

GCK:You are also a published author, are you currently working on anything for us to read in the future?
Shurooq: Yes! I have been writing down my experiences (like a quasi-fictitious journal) in chapters and then they're going to be stringed together into a humorous memoir-like novel. I change the names to protect the not-so-innocent.

GCK: As a single mother, I’m sure nothing has been easy. What’s your superwoman secret recipe?
Shurooq: I don't waste a minute. Every single day of my life, I'm accomplishing something, whether it is nursing a sick child, working on a painting, planning a charity event, writing or even working out (I'm a huge believer in Pilates; it has served me well after each one of my 4 children). Even on the simplest, possibly most uneventful day when I'm sick in bed, I tweet, read fiction and non-fiction, do some research online, call or text friends and family members I haven't seen in a while to make sure they know I think about them, and help my kids with homework (the little ones) or with life issues (the older ones). Don't waste time. Savor life. Drink in the beauty of a blue sky with a cotton cloud passing through it, enjoy and sing LOUD to the lyrics of a favorite song while driving in your car (traffic jam? Perfect for catching up with music!), be kind for no reason at all, even if the other person is a douchbag (giving in does not always mean surrender; sometimes it just means choosing your battles wisely). It's simple really: cherish life; make the most of whatever you've been given: someone somewhere is in a much worse situation than you and that's a fact.

GCK: Where to from now for Shurooq Amin?
Shurooq: "To infinity and beyond". 

Dr. Shurooq Amin in her studio
Glamorously Yours,

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