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Student’s “Home Through My Eyes” Exhibition Is a Stunning Capture of Qatar’s Desert Landscape

February 4, 2024
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Hessa's Desert Landscape Paintings In The Project Spaces Gallery Area

The paintings, part of an exhibition titled “Home Through My Eyes” that runs until February 8, 2024, focus on Qatar’s desert landscape

Interior designer channels her love for nature into art and design

For the past few weeks, visitors walking down the corridors of VCUarts Qatar have been pausing to admire a series of paintings within the glass-cased Project Spaces on the ground floor of the University.

The paintings, part of an exhibition titled “Home Through My Eyes” that runs until February 8, 2024, focus on Qatar’s desert landscape.

The range of scenery depicted, the intricate details, the contrast of pastel and bold hues, and the delicate layers that add a three-dimensional depth, conjure up the image of an experienced artist who, with sensitivity and skill, has captured Qatar’s natural beauty. 

Hence, it’s hard to believe that the person behind the artworks, Hissa Al-Khuzaei, an Interior Design Junior, was introduced to oil painting only in her second year at VCUarts Qatar and that this exhibition is her first solo one.

Al-Khuzaei says, “In the spring of 2023, in my sophomore year, I took a class titled ‘Painting From Within’. Though I had limited experience with acrylic paints, the class was my first exposure to oil paints. 

“Professor Payne, who led the class, introduced me to the basic techniques and nuances of this medium. He even provided several painting books to enhance my learning experience. Under his mentorship, I quickly picked up the skills.  It was a journey. I’d go so far as to say it taught me a bit about myself as well. For instance, it required me to be patient, waiting for each layer to dry before applying the next. I realized it is that layering that allows the artist to add more depth to a painting.”

She continues, “What I particularly appreciated about this course was the freedom it offered in choosing my area of study. I decided to focus on bringing the natural beauty of my home country, Qatar, to life through my artwork.”

Al-Khuzaei is a nature lover. Her interest in nature was inspired by her great-grandfather, a nature-based medicine expert who ran a shop in the old Souq Waqif.

As a child, she would wait impatiently for the weekend visits to their family farm in Al Shamal, in the north of Qatar. Those weekends were made up of endless rambles, collecting twigs, leaves and flowers and observing indigenous flora and fauna.

When Al-Khuzaei joined VCUarts Qatar, she discovered multiple avenues to channel her love for the environment. While a Junior, she wrote a research paper titled ‘Technology in Disconnecting the New Generation from Nature’, highlighting how technology had inadvertently led to decreased interaction between each generation and nature. The research paper was part of her coursework in class. Additionally, she infuses her designs for interiors with materials and muted greens and beiges inspired by the desert environment.

When it comes to painting, she often chooses to depict nature in a blend of realism and abstract impressionism. For this series, Al Khuzaei says she drew inspiration from the many drives she had with her family to Al-Guwayriyah, the Purple Island mangroves, Sealine in Mesaieed and Al Zubara beach.

Once a specific site inspires her, she decides to explore the location further. Armed with her camera, paints, and primed paper, she captures various perspectives which she uses as references for painting when she’s back in her studio. At times, when the weather is suitable, she indulges in ‘plein-air painting’, or outdoor painting as it is more commonly called.

She adds, “Capturing my homeland in such colors fills me with pride. It’s my way of giving back to my country. The choice of colors in my paintings mirrors the atmosphere of the moment: moody and subdued on cloudy days, vivid and pastel on sunny ones. Each piece is a reflection of this country’s natural beauty as I perceive it.”

Al-Khuzaei says the idea for a solo exhibition was initiated by Payne who encouraged her to install her series in The Gallery’s Project Spaces.

She sums up, “It’s always been one of my many goals. Yet I never knew I had it in me to pick up a new skill so quickly and use it as a springboard to express my deep attachment to my country. Taking that class, having Professor Payne as a mentor, my love for my country, studying at VCUarts Qatar – a host of factors fell into place to create this opportunity!”

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