Culture, Culture + Taste

On Fearless, Cutting-Edge Art-Making: An Interview with Fatima Al Budoor

This world-traveling artist's work is the gorgeous intersection of printmaking and photography.

Earlier this week, I logged into Skype for an interview with up-and-coming Emirati artist Fatima Al Budoor. The Dubai-based printmaker and photographer currently works out of her studio in Tashkeel, an artist’s space in Nad Al Sheba, but has also lived and studied in Boston, London and Dublin.

Al Budoor’s work combines photography, printmaking, writing, and drawing, yet also focuses on transient experiences in life and familial and interpersonal relationships. “I combine writing, drawing, photography, and printmaking to weave narratives into finished pieces,” she says. “Focusing on the portrait, be it rendered ghost-like through layers of print, or starkly visible in a photograph; I seek to explore the landscape of human emotion through themes of loneliness, relationships, and the intricacies of daily life.”

Al Budoor received her BFA in studio art and is a graduate of Northeastern University and The School of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Her prints have been featured and exhibited in the Boston Museum of Fine Art, as well as various exhibitions across Dubai, Boston, and Venice.

Despite the eight-hour time difference between us, she patiently let me pick her brain and talk about her work and inspirations.

The Tempest: How did you get started in printmaking and photography?

It was probably around my second year of college, where I initially came from a graphic design major. There, the bulk of the work was digital and I felt limited. It was refreshing to take silkscreen where everything required manual hands-on process, from the initial drawings, to burning them onto a screen, to mixing a palette of inks, then finally printing the designs onto paper or fabric. This process was very fundamental to me as a designer and an artist, and became my favorite way to translate works onto paper.

It was a very transformative experience in the darkroom. Click To Tweet

As for photography, I also enrolled in a 35mm darkroom class, and I had a similar experience where I felt more inspired by the handmade process. It was a very transformative experience in the darkroom. I had to shoot and process a roll of film a week, and in a few months I had hundreds of rolls. Building that structure where I was always shooting and documenting is something I keep with me until today.

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How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been seriously making art for about 5 years, since being in the art program at college. I graduated about a year ago, and struggled to make artwork outside of school. I found Tashkeel Studio and Gallery, which is where my studio is and where I now work. It’s a community for artists, and they offer facilities such as a darkroom and printmaking studio, as well as being a community for artists. I sought it out while I was still in school.

I also went through a period of existentialism, asking questions such as why I am an artist and why I like to make art. In total I’ve been doing this for about five years, but freelancing for about one year.

Japanese Side Sewn Pocket Book, 6×4″, 2012. Via FatimaAlBudoor.com

What projects are you working on now?

I have two projects that I’m working on and that I sent in to the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation. The first one is titled “A New Beginning.” This was born of our feelings of anxiety. I was commissioned to do a couple of postcards for Art Dubai, with RCA Secret at Art Dubai being the initial inspiration. I did the postcards, about 80 of them, and was inspired to do more. It was a very cathartic project for me to do. It’s still a work in progress but can shown in its current state.

I sought it out while I was still in school. Click To Tweet

The second one is titled “The Travelers,” and it is based on subjects traveling through life rather than just traveling through space. It’s something I’ve really been working on for the past year. It’s also about the interpersonal connections you have with people, family and friends – traveling through life. It’s inspired by a road trip I took with my sisters in Europe in 2014, and have a lot of media from it.

What projects are you most proud of?

I’d probably say my project titled “A Brief Stay,” which is based on my BFA thesis project from graduating from university. I used Arabic gum and a printing press – a monoprinting process in which you take a picture and run it through the press. The project was a breakthrough for me a printmaker, as I forced myself to work on stuff I had not used before, such as Arabic gum. I used pictures of family, friends, life in Boston, and life in the U.A.E. The project is about homesickness and loneliness, the feelings you get when you’re far from home.

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What sets your work apart from that of other printmakers and photographers?

I consider my work the meeting point between printmaking and photography. When people ask, I usually say I’m a printmaker.

The project is about homesickness and loneliness. Click To Tweet

I’m actually a little stumped by this question, actually. But I’m driven by the likes of some admirable text-and-image artists, such as the work of Carrie Mae Weems, Sophie Calle, Barbara Kruger, Marian Bantjes, and Corita Kent. I tend to be very critical of my own work, and I’m always thinking about how I can relate to the viewer, and whether my work makes an impact or not. Those are the things I’m interested in most of all.

“in this small space,” 2012. Via Wide Awake Again

What’s it like being a female in the U.A.E?

When I tell people that I’m an artist in the U.A.E, they’re usually excited to hear that. I don’t find myself facing limitations just because I’m female. People stereotype what it’s like to be a female in the Middle East. Dubai is very proud of its women, and has lots of grants for a lot of artists to take advantage of. It’s not really the same in other countries in the Middle East.

My culture finds its way into my work very naturally. Click To Tweet

How do your personal experience and culture find their way into your work?

My culture finds its way into my work very naturally. I use pictures of my family and where I come from, the culture is shown. As for personal experiences, I think I work with stories and narratives and very genuine feelings. Such as “A Brief Stay,” for example – they are human experiences, and they are natural. I find that no matter where I am in life, I’m always curious about the world, always documenting life. And those experiences feed into my work.

Fatima’s work can be found on Instagram @krning as well as on her website. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Layla Gama

Layla T. Gama is a Saudi-American woman raised between Washington, D.C. and Dubai, U.A.E. A third culture kid at heart, she pursued her B.A. in International Relations at the University of Exeter in the U.K. Passionate about writing, traveling, women’s issues, barre workouts and hiking, she is always excited to see where the next trail in life will take her next.

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