Bouthayna Al Muftah is a Qatari visual artist, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Upon graduation, she focused on printmaking, typography, documentation and artist books, which evolved into installation work. Her artistic approach draws inspiration from cultural heritage, borrowing elements from Qatar’s oral history and folklore. Here, she reveals what informs her art.
“As a young girl in school, I enjoyed the experimentation process involved in arts and crafts – learning new techniques and putting my own spin on them led me to my true calling. I always felt a sense of comfort when immersed in art, as it allowed me to express who I am, and my thoughts and passions. Fast forward a few years and this holds true now more than ever – my art is an unfiltered reflection of my creative expression.
Since I pursued art professionally, I’ve developed a distinct style and process to approach the concepts I work on. My creative vocabulary has evolved, especially in how I combine different media and techniques whilst maintaining the raw essence of my work. I don’t try to embellish what comes out naturally – spontaneity, gestural strokes and freeflowing ink are recurring elements in my work, paying homage to authentic self-expression.
Gradually, I’ve been inspired by cultural history and immortalizing my land’s forgotten traditions. In my early 20s, I began to realize that there was a gap between me and my own motherland, which drove me to develop an emotional attachment to my country’s way of life, and meditate on the relationship between past and present.
As I began this exploratory process, I was surprised to learn how much I didn’t know about my own surroundings. Being a regional artist has helped me build a stronger connection with my local environment and community, and investigate my identity in relation to the rest of the Middle East and the world. I’m grateful for my country’s cultural and creative infrastructure that help me express myself.
I often find myself drawn to architecture, objects, stories and words that form the basis of my conceptual bodies of work. The recurring concept of memory in my work aims at archiving cultural history, referencing recollections narrated by other generations that I’ve witnessed over the years.
Beauty lies in the process of creating an image in my own imagination of the memory that’s shared with me. I enjoy experimenting using different methods of translation and interpretation to deconstruct and reconstruct these moments, and present them in a surrealist, dreamlike window to a time and place that are open to interpretation. Beyond recording and communicating memories, my practice touches upon my personal experiences, as well as collective memories that transcend the region.
I’ve translated these inspirations through my monochrome lens, as I’ve always been drawn towards black and white. This inclination emerged in middle school when I began learning about Chinese ink painting and calligraphy — the simple act of writing using a pen was cathartic for me, and marked the beginning of my sketchbook journaling and documentation process. I loved writing with ink in a world that favored typing.
This appreciation for monochromes ultimately expanded into black-and-white photography. Developing the photographs in a dark room is a deeply therapeutic and meditative process for me — working there is akin to using ink and pen, and seeing things form and develop much before the final result is a large part of my research and practice.
In a globalized world that’s fueled by social media and other connectivity tools, I can say that I’m an artist from the region but with a message that has been seen, heard and resonates with the international community. Everything I’ve learnt and gained has aided me in shaping the work that I share today, and allowed me to express myself in different ways. My creative journey is an evolutionary process that’s defined by places, people and time that haven’t been frequented by our minds. This is just the beginning.”
Bouthayna is represented by EMERGEAST gallery and her art is available on Emergeast.com/artists/bouthayna-al-muftah. Follow @Emergeast and @B_almuftah on Instagram