January 2018 Alumni Feature - Emelina Soares
Name: Emelina Soares
Programme: MA Museum and Gallery Practice, Full-time, Class of 2017
For our first UCL Qatar Alumni Feature, Emelina Soares, one of our Museum and Gallery Practice MA graduate students from the Class of 2017, shares her experience at the exhibition "Contemporary Art Qatar" and the impact UCL Qatar has made on her practice.
In congratulating with Emelina for her showcase at the Contemporary Art Qatar Exhibition at Kraftwerk Gallery in Berlin last December 2017 we have asked her a few questions about her journey post-graduation and about her art piece 'Shifting Identites' which was part of the exhibition.
Could you please tell us more about your artwork?
The carpet was very much inspired by the use of oriental carpets beneath Mary's feet in Renaissance Christian paintings. However, it has transformed into a portal to understand the silk trade route between India, the Middle East and Europe, as they are places I relate to as an Indian born and raised in Qatar with an ancestral relationship with Portugal. I am interested in the conversation of shared complex identities within our communities today. I believe identities are fluid and I intended to create an object that could subtly allude to that thought.
What was the experience in Berlin like, as a representative not only of Qatar Germany Year of Culture, but also to be selected to be a part of 'Contemporary Art Qatar'?
The experience definitely came from having an opportunity from being part of the Fire Station residency program. I was pleased to see how Qatar was successfully able to present a wide range of aesthetics that identified their traditional and ever growing approaches to contemporary art in a place where art has already been established within a community (Berlin). We were able to promote more about Qatar's culture and this exhibit helped to enhance perspectives of the artists in the region.
In detail, I received questions about being a female artist in Qatar which I found challenging to answer because I do not face any restrictions as such. I also received questions regarding the influence the blockade might have had on my work, which has not impacted my work at all.
Do you think that your time as a student at UCL Qatar and at Qatar Foundation has helped you in your development as an artist, or in the curation of your art?
Firstly, my journey in art started at Qatar Academy, providing me the opportunity to study at Virginia Commonwealth University and then enrolled in the Masters in Museum and Gallery practices at University College of London Qatar. UCL Qatar not only shined light on the ideal approach art should have within a gallery space, but also made me realize my role as an artist within Qatar. I became interested in balancing the conversation between my art work and the viewer, which is why my art encourages the participation of the viewer in order to continually develop during the time frame of its existence. My ephemeral sand carpet wanted foot prints and reactions of the viewer to move and shift the elements of the carpet. The elements come from Indian, Qatari and Portuguese traditional rugs that get reinterpreted by myself while creating the rug. UCL Qatar made me realize the importance of even thinking of my relationship with the work itself and the carpet is created through the movement of body, my enjoyment with the material of sand, the bare exposure of my feet, knees, and elbows to the ground, the stretching of my back and the reminiscence of color that stains my hand after dyeing the sand. The choice of material was also closely considered as the sand comes from the dunes of Qatar and is dyed with Indian dyes, giving it a dual source of origin such as myself.
What advice would you give to prospective students who are interested in applying for UCL Qatar?
At first, applying to UCL Qatar felt like a risky decision as an artist but it turned out to be a platform for me to further explore my possibilities in the art world. I was able to network with individuals beyond my expectation and have a conversation that artists are poorly informed off. Therefore, my advice to future applicants is to allow yourself to continuously engage with a wider audience while doing the programme because at the end of the day the network within the cultural art sector of Qatar is rapidly developing and they want enthusiastic students to support their aim. UCL Qatar has successfully prepared me to become part of this network and I am grateful for that opportunity. Also the dissertation course at UCL Qatar provided access for me to study the ideal format of an art residency program similar to the Fire Station residency program.
Do you have any memories from your time at UCL Qatar you would like to share?
I really enjoyed the debates in contemporary art course because it was interesting for me to learn about the reading of contemporary art globally. I loved the team work displayed among my peers in the practical application of setting up an exhibition in Msheireb, it was absolutely brilliant. I was fortunate to attain knowledge from all aspects of what is required to set up an exhibition under the umbrella of a well-established institution.
What was your favourite place to hang out/relax/study in UCL Qatar?
I have fond memories of the cafeteria and the lecture halls in the building. I really enjoy having a crowd surrounding me, engaged with other students, playing cards, eating lunch, I love the student life within QF.
What's next, Emelina?
Next? Well I am currently pursuing another masters in Fine Arts at Emily Carr University of Art and Design Canada. I believe this will compliment by Museum and Gallery practices degree from UCL Qatar, and I am also interested in developing a stronger foundation Art History. Therefore, this Fine Art exploration will provide access to the contemporary art world as a specialization. The university was recommended by the dean of VCU Qatar. My next plan is to return to Qatar and offer my knowledge and skills to the development of the contemporary art scene of Qatar. Qatar is home to me and I want to be part of this growing interest in the arts and culture of the region. I also plan to start up an art residency opportunity in India as a side project in a few years time because I believe there is a lot of potential for Pune, Maharashtra to develop their art scene and I wish to provide my educational background as a service to this initiation.