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VCUarts Qatar releases print catalogue by former Artist-in-Residence Higgins-Stirrup

VCUarts Qatar releases print catalogue by former Artist-in-Residence Higgins-Stirrup

Tribune News Network
Doha
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) recently organised an event to recognise a former Artist-in-Residence Fellow who had her sojourn in Doha abruptly shortened by the pandemic. The Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university’s Painting + Printmaking (PAPR) department developed and released a print catalogue of works that Brynn Higgins-Stirrup created during her nine-month residency in Qatar.
Titled ‘Figure Drawn’, the catalogue is meant to serve as Higgins-Stirrup’s solo exhibition which was scheduled to take place at Doha’s Fire Station in early 2020, but was cancelled due to the pandemic lockdown.
In addition to images of Higgins-Stirrup’s creative output, a critical essay about her work, and a transcribed conversation between Michael Perrone, assistant professor, PAPR, and herself, complete the catalogue. The publication will also feature artwork created by students taught by Higgins-Stirrup during her AIR Fellowship, and later, as an adjunct faculty. The PAPR department organised a physical exhibition (by the same name as the catalogue) of a portion of Higgin-Stirrup’s artwork at VCUarts Qatar’s The Gallery, which will run from November 15 to December 6, 2021.
Higgins-Stirrup, who flew down to Doha for the release of the catalogue and launch of the exhibition, was an Artist-in-Residence in the University’s PAPR department from August 2019 to May 2020, following which she has been serving as an adjunct faculty member in the Department from September 2020 to present.
Higgins-Stirrup, who lives and works in Montreal, Canada, as a visual artist and has completed residencies in Japan, India, US and Canada, says that living in Doha had an impact on her work. “There were certainly some visual elements that seeped in,” she recalls. “For example, the integration of Western and Islamic texts on optics, as both regions carry such strong lineages of scientific development and diagrammatic drawing. I was able to access some of these texts at the new National Library of Qatar and the Museum of Islamic Art and enjoyed the chance to engage with those artefacts’ materiality.”
For the MFA graduate from the University of Michigan, her fellowship at VCUarts Qatar was also her first foray into teaching. “Though I had studied and worked as an independent artist in culturally diverse contexts, teaching was new to me,” she says. “Having grown up in rural Canada, I found it exciting to teach for the first time in this new context, with smaller and more intimate classes and students who could share experiences very different from my own. I could teach my students the skills and knowledge to become contemporary artists and they could share Doha with me.”
Higgins-Stirrup also observes how such opportunities afford artists an opportunity to experience different cultural and artistic perspectives.
“New experiences are a privilege,” she says. “They help artists expand and add nuance to their work. For instance, teaching and creating artwork in Doha gave me insights into the Islamic history of optics which preceded Western traditions, originating in Iraq under Ibn al-Haitham in the 11th century. This particular fact about the origin of optics was not new to me but working in a new context sparked my interest to learn more about this history. I usually tend to focus on European knowledge traditions because that is my own cultural context and heritage but working in Doha gave me many new insights into how these traditions weave together over time and space.”
VCUarts Qatar’s adjunct faculty says her personal experience shows how Qatar’s flourishing art and design scene nurtures the rising generation of artists and designers.
“I love the way the art and design scene in Qatar is both small and accessible to students, and global at the same time,” says Higgins-Stirrup.
“I think it offers students opportunities to engage with the artistic community before leaving school but also allows them to engage with faculty, artists, exhibitions, and talks that are culturally diverse and connect to the larger art world. I liked this about Doha, I enjoyed experiencing this for myself while living there and I think it is great for students to grow into artists in a place that is so aware of its global context.”
Higgins-Stirrup says that in a way, the catalogue ‘rounds off’ the creative journey of her residency in Doha.“It’s exciting to return to Doha and get together with faculty and students after this period of global instability – in a way it was an occasion to celebrate the department’s work together with mine,” she says.

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