Today’s spotlight interview is with the amazing Dana Awartani – Dana is a contemporary Islamic artist dedicated to the revival of historical crafts from the Islamic world, and she works with a wide range of materials including ceramics, natural pigments, and woodwork inspired by centuries of historical Islamic geometry and pattern.
Dana recently held a solo exhibition in Jeddah called ‘The Hidden Qualities of Quantities’ which was a major success, and we’re honoured to be able to interview her here 🙂
Where are you located?
Predominantly in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, however I do travel quite a bit between London and Istanbul.
In one sentence, describe your motivation in life:
To continue perusing my passion of making art! There is one specific quote that I really love by Rumi, which is, “let the beauty of what you love be what you do,” and that is my life motto.
Tell us the story of how you got started with your artwork:
Well, I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I think the key moment in my life when I really started taking it seriously was during my GCSE’s when I was about 14.
I had a really awesome teacher named Mrs. Owen who I still remember till this day, and she told my parents that I was gifted and that I should attend Central Saint Martins in London when the time came, and the rest is history!
I ended up getting my foundation and bachelor’s degree from there and then continued onto doing my masters at the Princes school of traditional arts, and ever since I have been working as a full time artist!
What is one of your favorite artworks and why?
I don’t really have just one favorite, but the ones I do like the most are probably “He who created the Heavens and the Earth in six days”, “Orientalisim”, and more recent pieces are the “Heavenly Bodies” series from my solo. I think the reason why I like them is because they were so labor intensive and took me ages to do.
What has been the highlight or ‘I can’t believe this!’ moment so far on your artistic journey?
I think it would be my solo show I just had. It still hasn’t sunk in!
How does your faith affect your approach to your art?
I tend to keep the two very separate.
People tend to stereotype me as someone who is very religious because of what I do, but even though my inspiration comes from Islamic art I don’t really focus on the religious aspect of it as much as I do like to focus on the science, math, history and general culture that that art form has derived from.
The one thing I can point out though that has affected my faith, is through all my research into the spiritual element of this art form, I have come to realize that the essence of Islam shares so many commonalities with a variety of faiths and its not as black and white as I thought.
What/where/who inspires you?
Obviously my main source of inspiration comes from the traditional arts and architecture, and that’s why I travel quite a bit.
The places that have really blown my mind are the Al Hambra Palace in Granada (Spain), the whole of Iran is breathtaking specifically Yazd, and Istanbul plays a huge role in my creative development as I am currently training there with my master to obtain my ijaza in illumination.
However the contemporary arts do play an equally important role in feeding my inspiration, as I personally find it important to find a balance or meeting ground where I can merge both sides of the art world in my practice.
Quite recently I visited Art Basel in Hong Kong and I left so inspired and invigorated!
How do you handle the inevitable creative block, where you feel like you are the most uncreative person alive and you’re never going to succeed??
I hate those creative blocks; they usually leave me so depressed and I am actually going through one right now!
There isn’t much you can do about it though, I just tend to let it play itself out and try to not think about my work for a day or two and then come back with a fresh pair of eyes.
Another approach that really helps me is talking to my friends (who are artists as well) and just brainstorm together and bounce ideas of each other.
Either way, creative bocks are a part of the process and journey for every artist and it’s something you have to learn to accept and deal with.
What 2 pieces of advice, based on your own experience, would you give to a fellow artist starting out?
Firstly to work as hard as you can and keep pushing yourself to develop your practice, because I believe being completely satisfied with your art is a dangerous frame of mind to be in. When you become fully happy with your work and don’t see room for improvement then you have failed as an artist and have become lazy. You can always do better, and an artist’s practice is more off an evolutionary process rather then a race to the finish line.
Secondly, making art is just 50 percent of an artist’s job. You have to get out there and meet people, network and learn from other artists and curators. You need to also keep going to new exhibitions and shows too see what is going on in the contemporary art scene, not only will it inspire you but you learn new things along the way, and as an artist you need to keep your creative juices flowing!
Favourite Social Media or Marketing Platform?
Instagram for sure!
If you could travel to one place anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Where would you love to see yourself in 5 years time?
Who knows! I have a lot of hopes and dreams that could be seen as a bit too far-fetched, but the one thing I can say is I do hope in 5 years time I am still working as an artist.