Lamya Gargash

“Identity in space and the human narrative”: an interview on Lamya Gargash’s art and practice

Emirati photographer and artist is having a solo show at the Third Line
by Claudia Malfitano
March 9, 2020
Claudia Malfitano
Lamya Gargash

Tell us a bit about your solo show ‘Sahwa’ and what will you present at The Third Line

The word Sahwa is Arabic for awakening, it is the revival or rebirth of an individual or thing and literally means waking up. I see the act of conserving and restoring an act of revival giving these artifacts a second chance at life. It was humbling to be in the presence of the master battling through to preserve the
longevity, aesthetic and functionality of the artworks at hand. It was equally humbling to be in the presence of our human history represented through jewelry, urns, vessels and various domestic objects.
This exploration of space and time concluded in the art conservator’s space is a true ode to the human experience and its heritage. I was fortunate to be allowed a peek into this world of preservation, restoration and document a small part of a conservator’s journey amidst these historically laden elements. In return the outcome of it all is my own photographic edition of preservation and storytelling.

You were born in Dubai. What is your relationship with this city and its fast pace and ever-changing nature? How do you feel the local traditions are coping with this super-fast modernization?

My city, my home and my experiences and memories within them have played a vital role in serving as my lead inspiration in my work.

My work over the last decade has been documentation of interiors and spaces. It started out with the documentation of abandoned and semi abandoned spaces and has progressed to other housings and establishments.

My work has always tackled the concept of Identity, Identity in space and the human narrative. The idea that our human-ness speaks volumes in a given space and that our identities and stories can be reflected through the details we leave behind. It’s truly the everyday and banal that inspires me. This concept that the fast pacing world overshadows a lot of our surroundings that we are no longer in the moment nor are we present enough to take in the beauty that is the everyday.

My work deals with sensitive emotions and even intimate ones, I’ve always been an observer of thoughts and my surroundings and the human narrative has always fascinated me even as a young child. I’d always wonder looking out the car window where people went, what their background story was and pay attention to the surroundings whilst my mother drove us around.

The human narrative in space highly appeals to me. All those details carrying within them various stories about the various individuals residing in them. I used to find it quite annoying how I am aware of my surroundings, I don’t know if it is because I am a highly empathetic sensitive person or because this has always been my calling and there’s no other way of looking at the world.

I am an observer. I live my life through visuals. Stories form in my mind as a series of images rather than text, and my work is a direct opposition to our fast pace society. Using analogue photography reflects this opposition.

Lamya Gargash, Sahwa, 2019
Lamya Gargash, Sahwa, 2019

What is your perspective on the city’s art scene compared to the other places you lived in?

First of all, its home, regardless of where I am my work will also be connected to my experiences here. This is both a conscious and subconscious choice. I find that my work is far stronger when I associate myself with my upbringing, my experiences, my history and place of naissance. Dubai though quite young, in relation to other older cities definitely hosts a lot of rich talent, and its diverse groups that reside within it have all contributed to its growth and artistic evolution. After all the Middle east has and always been pivotal in enriching the arts be it in our history, architecture, oral storytelling, the sciences and even textiles & fashion. So, it is not that art was not present it was merely the opportunities that were limited and never presented themselves to a community that was already artistically rich.

Over fifteen years ago the boom was huge and infectious it was hard to keep track of what was happening as there was too much information around. Too many things to see. I see art growing at a steadier pace now, people taking time to producing their visions. Initially it felt that we needed to keep up, when really there was no race setup to begin with. We have always been a nation and region of rich historical value in all forms of art. There is definitely more studies, organization and structure now and it’s a wonderful testimonial showcasing not only talent but that we are more than a stereotyped region of conflict.

As a young-un I wanted my work to be disconnected from my identity and place, but the harder I tried to disengage the less authentic the work was and the weaker the concept. I found strength in staying true to my experiences and history. Since then my reportage of photographic documentation has only grown bigger and stronger. I love my city, sometimes we fight, sometimes we bicker but just like any relationship you go through the bumps but always find ways back to love.

Lamya Gargash, Sahwa, 2019
Lamya Gargash, Sahwa, 2019

My Art Guides likes to recommend to its readers unique places to visit in each destination, not necessarily connected to contemporary art. In your opinion, what are the absolutely unmissable places, landmarks and spots in Dubai? And could you recommend something that shouldn’t be missed during Art Week?

I love Alserkal Avenue, not only because it hosts my gallery The Third Line, but it’s a wonderful hub for a lot of creative establishments, galleries and spaces and they always organize wonderful art events that brings the art community together.

Art Dubai is also a definite go to + Bastakiya which is centered in the older parts of Dubai, a place I absolutely love and wish I could spend more time in.
Jameel arts center, The Louvre in Abudhabi, DIFC galleries, there is just so much to see. Even as a local I find that so many new exciting ventures are happening on a daily basis, so hard to keep track of them all.

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