Maryam Alfaisal, geometry, degree show
Image courtesy of Maryam Alfaisal

News 20 August 2020

Degree Show 2020: Meet the graduates - Maryam Alfaisal

Introduce yourself and your work. What ideas and themes are important to you?

I am a special education teacher from Saudi Arabia. I have limited formal experience with art, but I've always been drawn to the traditional crafts.

Building bridges and reconciling opposites has always held a special place in my mind. Bringing together the head and the heart, reconciling city and desert.

I also wanted to shed some light on the nomadic crafts, from a wholistic perspective. To illuminate the primordial, Abrahamic perspective that is so often undervalued by the ‘sophisticated’ centers of the Islamic world.

What materials do you use? Why are they important to your practice?

A combination of local stones, ground into pigments and mixed with gum Arabic. I also used indigo, madder and barnuq (a desert mushroom) as pigments and also for dyeing paper.

Using natural, local, materials maintains the link with the land. In a way, it is a hymn to the mountains and wadis of my home.

I was also hoping that by carefully preparing these local materials I could produce high quality paints, and restore their value in people's eyes. These pigments are so often neglected and abandoned for imported ones.

How has the lock-down influenced your work? What new things have emerged in your work because of the restrictions?

I had originally intended to make carved gypsum pieces and wood panels, but I didn't have the materials or the tools. I also had a large quantity of dyed camel hair yarn that I couldn't weave. Instead, I tried embroidering some of my pieces with this yarn and was pleasantly surprised by the outcomes. The lockdown also gave me an opportunity to experiment with refining my pigments and materials.

What drew you to the School, and what do you want to remember about these last two years?

I was initially drawn to the philosophy of the school, having read many of the perennial philosophers whose books form the theoretical foundation of the curriculum.

Then I discovered the tactile, craft, dimension of the course. The implementation of these concepts in gypsum and ceramic added a layer of depth to these lofty, abstract principles.

When we’re all able to be out in the world again, what are your hopes?

I hope to stock up on old materials and experiment with new ones. I also hope to continue my research in Jeddah with the Outreach Programme [of the School of Traditional Arts].

About this year's Degree Show:

This year, we will be showcasing our graduates' work online from 6 August to 6 September 2020.

Work will be available to buy directly from the students.