Welcome to a special episode of the Gallery Girl podcast in partnership with Hunna, a contemporary art gallery representing women artists from the Arabian Peninsula. In this episode, my guest is Aysha Almoayyed, a multi-disciplinary artist from Bahrain, who lives and works in Paris.
“I’m curious”, says Aysha, when asked to describe her practice, “I keep on going back to one thing, which I guess is the thing that comes most natural to me, which is the drawing”, she adds, though she jumps around mediums and is currently working with tiles. That said, Aysha explains that she always loved working with ink. “I love it because I can’t erase”, she says, “So my first intention is always pure.” She goes on to add, “I’m curious always, through whatever medium you pick, you always end up arriving at a completely different location than you first thought.”
Speaking about her upbringing, Aysha says that she was very creative. “I can still remember some of the storylines I gave my toys”, she says, “But from the more classical sense of art there was a lot of paint in front of me.” That said, she studied marketing before going to art school. “I was scared that I would be out of touch with everyone and not understand business”, she explains, “It was only after I left college and started working in a bank that I realised that this is not what I want to do.” During this time she worked on a portfolio to get into a grad school and then was accepted into Goldsmiths College in the UK.
Aysha says that from the very beginning she wanted to make something that was recognisable to someone like her. “My professor at Goldsmiths asked me who my art is for, and I couldn’t answer him. A lot of it was in English but a lot of it was about my experiences, which was a privileged Bahraini growing up and studying in the UK in an art school. It was the experience of being a woman in Bahrain. It was the feeling of feeling societal pressures in Bahrain”, she says, “I would remember very rare instances where I would see that depicted in the media. Picking up a book and seeing that the characters represent you were so rare.” Her work, embodied with both humour and truth is essentially something people from her background can relate to.
Recently, Aysha has been making work inspired by a diary her friend wrote in 2000. “It was a picture of her very dramatic life, it was hilarious, it was the best book that I’ve ever read”, she says, “As children we used to hide our lives from our parents. Most of us Arabs still do it. She gave her friends and boyfriends nicknames like Tweety and Sylvestor.” Aysha then made an exhibition about the diary, also looking at the importance of car culture in the Middle East as simultaneously a public and a private place. “In a world where you’re not allowed to have your own autonomy before you get married, you’re not allowed to move out of your parents house the car was a place where you had a sense of freedom and a place that was your own”, she says, “Everybody’s first date in Bahrain was a car.” The car was used as a means of flirting, with different motions of flashing lights signifying a secret language.
During the quarantines, Aysha has been reading more. She has been working indoors and explains that the most difficult part was not concerned with production, but actually motivating herself to get started. Once the lockdowns are over though, she is looking forward to collaborating again with other artists. And, what she really wants people to know about her work, is that it is playful.