A recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar), Hasan Alshehi .
Hasan Alshehi is an emerging artist who has recently graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar). His final thesis “reclamation of self – استرداد الذات“ is a thought-provoking, eye-catching installation of glass droplets, representing tears. The idea behind this project is a poignant lesson in embracing our deepest emotions.
His artistic journey of self-discovery began when Alshehi, a Doha resident, enrolled at VCUarts Qatar. For him studying there was an obvious choice as it is the most prestigious school for arts in Doha and in his opinion, the Middle East. It wasn’t an easy start to his academic career, in fact when he first started his BA program, he was unable to find his grounding and opted for Graphic Design, but other plans were waiting him in Painting and Printmaking (PAPR).
The VCUarts Department of Painting and Printmaking is a vibrant community centred on both practice and research. Students build skills in painting, drawing, and printmaking but are also given opportunities to participate in an expanded field that includes socially engaged practices, creative coding, video, performance, and more.
Alshehi explains, “In PAPR the projects are open to interpretation, we make of it what we feel so that we can express our artistic interests. Finding a subject of interest can be difficult when you’re just starting out but when COVID-19 hit, it was clear to me that feelings and thoughts are what I want to discuss within my work since the topic touches everyone.”
He also opted for a minor in Art History as he believes “that in order to understand Art we have to be knowledgeable about its historical context and the different forms it has taken over time. I wanted to give myself a different viewpoint of art in general and history has always been a favourite topic of mine.” Adding that “like the Arabic saying goes, that which has no past, has no future.”
The four-year program at VCUarts Qatar gave him a unique experience studying with like minded talents where he was constantly surrounded by inspiration that propelled him to keep going and find his own unique touch. “My latest project was my senior thesis which was about the inner world of thoughts and emotions, something I and many others struggled with during Covid. The situation hit everyone hard during these times so I felt responsible to highlight this culturally taboo subject and portray it in a positive light.”
His thesis “reclamation of self – استرداد الذات“ is made of delicate glass droplets that hang off a thin piece of string that represent tears that if broken, like the glass, can be sharp and physically hurt. The installation is accompanied by a poem he wrote about his own feelings. He received a lot of appreciation for being brave enough to share his thematically vulnerable work publicly, as this isn’t something the local audience is used to seeing, especially from a male Arab creative. The project has been showcased across Qatar television, local newspapers and blogs.
A verse from the poem reads, “A broken heart is a teary eye, has luminosity of glass that is brittle and can break at any given moment into a thousand tears that rain down heavily to wash away all the buildup of the broken days, weeks, months or dead years.”
Alshehi explains that the state-of-the-art resources on campus which included printing machines, wood shops, materials and supplies and this along with the support of professionals, specialised artisans and production companies all contributed to helping him form a solid foundation and present a thesis that resonates with viewers. He does admit that it wasn’t an easy journey; the work was challenging and there was much to learn along the way. Deadlines had to be met on barely any sleep, but this all helped him develop a strong sense of work ethic and perseverance.
For the final project he worked closely with a local glassmaker to execute the 100 glass droplets. He brought him a detailed idea designed out with the size and shapes and they worked together until all was executed to perfection. It happened over a period of time where they tried many options until they found the one. Along the way he says he also discovered “that my surroundings and the people around me can move me emotionally and artistically. They can inspire me or ruin my day.”
As a fresh graduate, Alshehi is not only armed with information, but he has also learnt key lessons. He no longer believes that for a project to be successful, he must work on it independently and execute it on his own. Instead, he realises that working with trained professionals will bring about better results.
Apart from the degree in Painting + Printmaking he graduated as Class Marshal and Cum Laude Latin Honors. “I think the secret to my success was doing what I like and producing it with personal satisfaction. There’s no point in working if I hate what I do, that just brings bad energy to me and others.”
He is currently working on developing new pieces similar to his thesis but in different mediums, experimenting with different materials. While simultaneously working on his own art, Hasan Alshehi is applying to different programs with the hope of securing an art residency for next year.
Words by Saira Malik
This series is part of an editorial partnership brought to you by VCUarts Qatar and Khaleejesque