A night out with the arts
Written by: Ashley Alleluya
Photography by: Abdulaziz Safar Ali
Numb. Not even comfortably. So it was less Pink Floyd and more Linkin Park. The icy cold was all I focused on as I arrived at this year’s edition of Art Night Out by Visual Therapy. It was going to be a quick ‘walk-in, do the rounds and get the hell out’ kind of evening. “There can’t be art good enough to freeze for” I thought. I should’ve known better.
In the heart of Shuwaikh’s industrial district, amidst all the garages, plumbing and flooring supplies, stands the Life Centre, housing the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP). It was on the CAP rooftop that art came to life for a single evening. As soon as I entered, I was struck by the “cool quotient” of the people there. It’s almost as if the promise of art in its entirety brought the young, eclectic, hipster crowd out from hiding. There were capes and headgear, and there were opinions and laughter – I had already begun warming up at the sight of it all.
Wanting to be as cool as everyone else, I decided to work my way backward through the rooftop – start at the Artisanal Market at the end of the rooftop and wind back to the front, where live music and poetry were the orders of the evening. However, I found myself stopping instead, at the exhibition put up by Floating Frames, showcasing life in Kuwait through a series of stunning images. Each moment in every picture, perfectly still in its beauty and juxtaposed against the beautiful chaos of the evening (and the cold), gave me goosebumps.
Turning around, I was immediately fascinated by the Paint with the Artists exercise run by Thuraya Lynn and Dochan. Already excellent at their craft, it was a treat watching them work their magic on a large canvas, inviting participants to contribute. The result perhaps best describes how art unites and celebrates creative individuality.
Beside this interactive space was where I found two people from the evening, whose work I still see vividly, even as I write. There was Zouz the Bird with her live mural, giving it shape and color as the evening progressed. “She’s named correctly,” I thought, watching her almost fly across the mural, using paints, tape and her skillful fingers to color her canvas – all while socializing with anyone who stopped to admire her work.
Working next to her, a study in contrast was Fahad Al-Hajery, an artist whose work is best captured in motion. Behind him rested a gigantic wooden Adonis, carved to detailed perfection, laying on the ground in a perfect state of serenity. Against this backdrop was Fahad, working at another piece, chipping away at wood with a quiet focus, stopping only for short breaks.
Throughout the evening, no matter where I went, I found myself being drawn back to his space, just to watch him add dimension and character to wood – I wasn’t alone. Fahad’s space was perhaps one of the most crowded at all times.
I’m not sure it was intentional, but my senses were continually assaulted (in a good way) by the wooden steps at the entrance, followed by the gravelly walkway and then the lawny grass I walked through. Wondering where the concrete was, I found my answer in the alley dedicated to the Artisanal Market. Here, the Concretist, one of Kuwait’s most creative minds, had put up a stall displaying works that added depth and vibrancy to an otherwise dull grey material. Bowls, vases and pots, designed and crafted with an expert eye lined shelves and drew many a curious mind to the stall, waiting to be admired and taken home.
Then there was Maitham Abdal, bringing the right touch of quirk to Art Night Out with his work. I walked to his stall drawn by the Grandizer – and stayed on to admire the life he brought his sculptures. A karate belt, shaped so expertly, you could tell the direction of the wind it blew in. Eyes crafted so expertly, you waited for his work to leap at you – each piece reflected the average 12 or more hours he said he’d put into his work.
Others artists, like the Print Room – another visionary in Kuwait who uses traditional press-techniques in their work to create prints and posters, Everly Calligraphy and Color Me Mine, had me wandering among the market filled with equal parts awe and envy.
Oil-on-canvas, local photography, comic-book illustrations and sculptures were brought to life – all this event now needed, I thought, was some music. And then it began. Unadulterated, uninhibited talent from every live act ensured that the music flowed well into the night, mingling with the cold air. David Hanners, DJ Bonita, Temple Tree, Sid Q, Taymour, Galaxy Juice, Boom Beats, Yousif Yaseen – the spunkiest musical minds in Kuwait kept every person on the rooftop singing, swaying and giving in to the intoxicating atmosphere of the night. When Taymour almost wistfully sang Bohemian Rhapsody – that eternal hipster anthem – and the crowd matched him note for note – it became obvious that every person there was glad they came.
Music wasn’t the only verbal celebration of art tonight, I discovered. Always a lover of words, I was delighted to find Word of Mouth – Kuwait’s most respected poetry collective – take over the night with beautiful renditions that had everyone in the crowd spellbound. And when the brilliant Thuraya Al Baqsimi – one Kuwait’s best creative minds – took to the stage amidst loud cheering, I knew the night had reached peak levels of amazing.
It was only when it was time to leave that I realized how long I’d decided to stay. Surrounded by craft, color, creativity and one of the liveliest crowds I’ve been a part of in a long time, I lost track of time and place. Walking out of this little utopian space that existed just for one night, I found myself replaying every sight, sound and sensation in my head. I could still see every picture captured by Floating Frames in my mind’s eye. I could still hear Fahad Al-Hajery turning wood carving into a mesmerizing medley of sounds. I could still smell the paint from the live mural and feel the creative energy in the space, alive and breathing.
I knew that Art Night Out had achieved what it set out to do – celebrate art in all its glory. As I walked out, I passed a couple who had walked in to take in the last few moments of Art Night Out. “This is amazing,” I heard the man whisper as he descended the stairs. “Aw, buddy,” I wanted to say, “amazing is an understatement.”