Sumayyah Al Suwaidi is an Emirati curator who was born in Dubai, the United Arab
Emirates in 1980. She holds a master’s degree in exhibitions and museum
management, and has more than 10 years of experience in art curation. Since 2007,
Sumayyah curated more than 50 exhibitions locally and internationally.
She approaches every exhibition she curates from a new perspective, ensuring that
each one stands out on its own unique way.
In 2010, she served as the curator of the UAE artists delegation at the Assilah Art
Festival in Morocco. Since 2013, Sumayyah has curated numerous exhibitions and
programmes for the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi and has also
curated exhibitions for the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, Mubadala and the
Martyrs’ Families Affairs Office Abu Dhabi.
Sumayyah has worked with a range of artists spanning from emerging to established
ones. With her vast experience and deep involvement in the Emirati art scene, she
has built an extensive knowledge base and network within the art community in the
UAE, making her one of the leading Emirati curators in the country.
We talk to Sumayyah about the potential possibilities of digital art for the future and how her role as a curator has shaped and evolved.
Can you tell us about the evolution of your digital art practice and how it has changed over time?
My practice changed with the advancement of the equipment and software I use to create my artworks. I did not only continue my work digitally, I also started creating mixed media artworks throughout the years and recently started exploring conceptual art.
How do you view the relationship between technology and art, and do you believe that technology has fundamentally changed the nature of art?
Yes, I think it did as it enhanced it and gave it more depth, because now artists have more ways to express their thoughts and creativity.
Can you discuss how your artistic practice is influenced by nature, and how you utilize technology to manipulate various aspects and representations of natural elements in your work?
I am a huge nature lover, and it inspires me as I see a lot of beauty in it. Although I am a city girl and I love how cities are vibrant and busy, I also love the scenery and the colors nature so beautifully and generously gives us.
My work includes a lot of elements derived from nature, you will see flowers, trees, mountains and seas in various digital paintings of mine, using computer software to cut out images and create photo collages that end up as one cohesive digital artwork makes my work shine, so without technology all of that wouldn’t be possible.
In what ways does art help you to process and make sense of the complexities and contradictions of the world we live in, and what do you hope it communicates to those who view it?
Art is a universal language, we can send messages through it without writing a single word, only the visuals are enough to say it all. I believe artists are true historians of their time. When you see the artworks that were done in caves by the cavemen or the artworks produced today, the viewer can always tell what was going on during that period of time from the subjects that were drawn and the elements that were used.
Personally, I don’t think art helps to process and make sense of complexities and contradictions we live in, but it confirms them, and I hope when people view such artworks, to dive deep into them and take the message behind them as a sermon and a lesson.
In what ways do you think digital art can transform our perceptions of reality and challenge our understanding of what is possible in the realm of artistic expression?
The beauty of digital art is that it is far away from reality, artists can create their own reality, their fantasies, they can fly away in their artistic realm, creating characters and creatures from their imagination to visuals that they can share with the world.
Can you reflect on the role of art in society, and how you see your role as a curator in shaping public perception and understanding digital art?
Art expands and widens one’s thoughts and knowledge so it plays a big role in bringing a society together through even a small little drawn character, that’s how powerful art is.
As a curator, I create spaces and concepts where I know the artists will have the best representations of their work, which in return shapes the public’s perception and understanding of digital art. It all goes down to the theme of the exhibition, the style of the artwork, and the exhibition design.
Can you speak to the ways in which your cultural identity informs your digital art practice, and how your work speaks to broader cultural themes and concerns?
My cultural identity plays a big role in my subject matter for my artworks as I as an Emirati I have to respect my culture so I do not create artworks that might even give a hint of disrespect as I love being an Emirati and I am proud of it. In a broader perspective my artworks speak to all cultures because my art is never religious nor political. Its all about feelings and what I personally go through in my day to day life.
Can you walk us through the process of making one of your artworks?
Usually it starts with a sketch, then looking for photos to start putting together the artwork and finally deciding on the look and feel of the artwork and that is when I decide which software I will use at the end. Other times it starts with a picture that I found online or a photo that I saw and it sparked something in me which had me drawn to it and I don’t let go until the artwork is done.
How do you approach the relationship between form and content in your digital art practice, and how do you balance the technical aspects of your work with its conceptual underpinnings?
I approach it by first visualising the end result, what would I like it to be and what would I like it to express and finally what would I want the viewer to take from it.
The balance between technical and conceptual usually depends on the finished product, if it’s a painting or a mixed media artwork or a conceptual piece in which I will have to create an installation, and that all goes down to the theme and concept of the exhibition and what medium I can use to send out my message in the best way possible.
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Islamic arts, and how do you think the integration of digital arts and emerging technologies will shape and influence this future?
The Islamic arts are very popular and will continue to grow in my opinion with the rise of artists numbers each year who have passion for calligraphy and geometric shapes, and architects who create monuments inspired by Islamic history in intricate design from leaves and flowers to the Arabic language of letters and lines.
I believe digital art is the future of the arts, especially with the increasing intertest of NFT’s, we are seeing more and more traditional painters embracing digital art and new technologies so they are not left behind and they create a bigger name of themselves by highlighting their pieces of art not only to the traditional art collectors, but also the digital art fans.
We already have online museums and the metaverse world where artists are showcasing their NFT collections and this is what will shape and influence our future in the arts.
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The views of the artists, authors and writers who contribute to Bayt Al Fann do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bayt Al Fann, its owners, employees and affiliates.