The artist’s desk: enchanted playground or torturous wrestling mat? The home of inspiration—or perspiration?
The ubiquitous marker of the workspace holds different meaning for each artist. What they bring to the table tells us something about their process, and perhaps even their artwork. Beyond voyeuristic satisfaction, we think there’s something to learn from getting a glimpse of the artist’s desk, and in this ongoing series we ask artists to share their space with us and tell us a little bit about it.
On the occasion of Art Dubai, we’ve asked two artists participating in the fair to share their workspaces with us. From Cairo, Doa Aly relates the fraught relationship she has with her desk, while Nadim Karam introduces us to the friendly sculptures—ahem, creatures—that offer him encouragement and company as he works at his computer.
I only sit at my desk when I’m drawing or writing. Daydreaming, making diagrams, reading and online research, all the things that my video work requires, is done from the couch. But drawing and writing are both torturous activities—they are grueling, stubborn and frustrating. There’s never a way to know what a twelve-hour session will produce, if anything. My desk has thus become a feared arena where I know my mind and body will be wresting, potentially humiliated. I keep my work desk very tidy, mostly empty.
On my desk there is:
· A pile of printed script drafts for my last video, House of Rumor.
· A copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated by Charles Martin, a book that I have milked for various projects over the past five years.
· Drawing and tracing sketchbooks
· A stuffed bunny
· A Canon inkjet printer
· Two magnifying glasses
· A resin sample from a failed sculpture
· A painting depicting the archangel Gabriel appearing to shepherds, that I bought from a flea market in Antwerp. I had it on the wall, but then I felt like I needed it closer.
· Two desk lamps, because I need a lot of light when I’m drawing.
Doa Aly is one of four artists presenting site-specific commissioned artwork on the grounds of Art Dubai as part of Art Dubai Commissions, a part of the fair’s non-profit programming.
Massinissa Selmani, another Art Dubai 2016 commissioned artist, shared her desk in a previous edition of Artists’ Desks: check out her workspace here!
Atelier Hapsitus | Beirut
This is my playground.
I am surrounded by my creatures.
Fractals seen on the screen will give birth to a new work (a gentle creature or a monster?).
Gayip is waving to me, to you and to all of us.
Hannibal is leading the way on his elephant. His trunk almost in the water. He encounters the wild cat; quite absurd.
Have you noticed the man with the long nose carrying a pomegranate? Is he standing on a chair or moving steadily?
In the background, light filters through the play of steel.
On the wall, the thinker is stretching his thoughts.
The book on the table includes stories, memories, dreams, toys and many other features that I have created in the last few years.
All of these elements around me keep on talking to me and giving me hints for new stories where silence and shout are buzzing in my mind.
Ayyam Gallery, Beirut and Dubai, is presenting work by Nadim Karam in a curated duo presentation alongside Faisal Samra at Art Dubai Contemporary: Booth D9.
—As told to Andrea Alessi