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Incorporating art into furniture

Incorporating art into furniture

Lezima Gomes
Bluribbon Design Atelier is currently holding the second version of 'Tafaseel', an exhibition by furniture designer Bachir Mohamad, at Katara Art Centre. The Syrian designer lives and works in Qatar.
He was born in Kuwait in 1983 and grew up in Beirut. His childhood house was filled with art and antiques collected by his family."I believe this influenced my study of art and archaeology, along with my mother's support. I graduated from the Lebanese International University with a Bachelor's degree in fine arts and a Master's degree in archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World, from University College London in Qatar." He joined Bluribbon Design Atelier in April 2012 as projects manager. His work includes interior design, furniture and lighting design.
The exhibition at Katara shows a new collection of Bluline, introducing 13 limited edition designs of furniture archetypes and prototypes, reflecting details of the local architecture and lifestyle, as well as different aspects of Arabic calligraphy. The collection consists of four pieces designed and conceptualised in collaboration with artist Sabah Arbilli, while one piece is dedicated to the memory of Qatari artist Jassim Mohamed Zaini.
All fabrics used for this collection's furniture pieces were selected in affiliation with ETRO Milano, which is exclusively available in Qatar at Bluribbon Design Atelier. Qatar Tribune's Lezima Gomes met with the artist to talk about his work and his current exhibition. Excerpts:

How do you incorporate art into furniture?
I have always been fascinated by all aspects of art and the relationship between art and architecture, as well as art and humans. For me, art can be found in every single detail in nature, the human body, or any architectural structure. Someone would say that art is general. However, how to understand art depends on your personal input and the way you can build a perspective around an object with an arty appeal. I believe I always wanted to be an artist, but with a message. I never found myself in any field but art, and this was very clear to me since my first day at school. It wasn't until I started my Master's degree in archaeology that the image of me becoming an artist came fully into focus. I define furniture as a miniature reflection of art and archaeology, as well as human interaction with architecture. I find all these fields can fit within a piece of furniture if researched properly.

How would you describe the designs in this collection?
I find my furniture bold, but with a clear and direct message. It is considered neither classic nor modern, but contemporary standardised with an Arabian influence. I always ensure that each piece of the collection, though mainly made of bare solid timber, is realised as a warm-hearted recording of a certain historical memory, cultural event or even modern-day phenomenon. I believe any person, not specifically from the local society, who perceives my collection as an art masterpiece, can possess it. Equally important though, the collection mainly tells stories about the local culture and heritage, and values Qatar and its history.

What inspired the special dedication to the memory of late Qatari artist Jassim Mohamed Zaini?
The piece of furniture is inspired by two works of the artist, which represent the Arabian horse and related activities like horse-riding and horse-raising. The horse is considered an important part of the cultural heritage and traditions in Qatar. Jassim Zaini resorted to realism to create works that depicted local scenes, events and customs; he was one of the few artists who witnessed the significant cultural, social and economic changes that the country underwent during the 1950s and 1960s. I got to know the family of the artist and I was overawed by their generosity and openheartedness. By dedicating my exhibition to the memory of the artist, I would be valuing my friendship with his family as much as appreciating his contribution to the country's art scene.

How did the collaboration with Sabah Arbilli happen?
I have always been captivated by the Arabic language and calligraphy. Perhaps in another life, I would have been a calligrapher. Sabah Arbilli is a one-of-a-kind specialist in Arabic letters and Islamic Calligraphy. I could not have had a better mentor than him. The instant I saw Sabah's"laughing out aloud" series, I fixed the vision of this collaboration. I got the visualisation of the full collection and I felt the urge to start working on it. I discussed the concept of this collaboration with him and he persuaded me to pursue the designs of the furniture pieces. I would like to thank him for the positive energy coming out of these pieces of furniture. They're laughter provoking!

Who are your mentors and what inspires you?
I may say that ordinary people who are chasing their dreams, really working hard to achieve their visions and to leave an imprint on humanity are my real mentors. I am inspired by their small achievements, whether in art, industry or even philanthropy.

What are some of the challenges that you face on a daily basis?
Time! They say time is gold and it's true. I can say that time is mostly my daily challenge.

Future plans?
Let's say a more thought-provoking collection for Tafaseel 3.