Yahya Al Shou’aiter to YT: “I feel that my drawings are mainly influenced by the art of Islamic calligraphy” [Archives:2001/18/Culture]

April 30 2001

Yahya Al Shou’aiter is a new discovery for the artistic world in Yemen. Apart from being an artist, he was the Manager of Cultural affairs in Ibb for the governorate and the deputy manager of the Yemeni Cultural Center of Ibb.
Yahya has participated in three collective exhibitions, one in 1991 for the celebration of the unification, at the Arab cultural center in Sana’a, one in Ibb in 1998 which was inaugurated by the vice president and the last at Dia (French N.G.O) in Sana’a during its Open-Door day.
Today he has come to organize his first solo exhibition at Dia’s Gallery in Sana’a. It will continue until the 30th of April 2001.
Yahya was first discovered by several renowned artists during the workshop “Across the Lines” which was held at the French Cultural Center in collaboration with both ICBL and Dia in February 2001. It was on this occasion that Dia made the decision to support him by organizing an exhibition of his most original works. During the workshop “Across the Lines” George Gittoes, an Australian artist, marked his exceptional talent and contemporary style, evaluating his work to be a perfect representation of modern Islamic art.
Excerpts from the Interview:
Q: What are the materials you use?
A: ‘I work mainly with colored felt pens and collage paper. When I first started painting, I brought some material from the United States because it is not easy to find the proper material in Yemen. However, for the time being I work with whatever material I have at hand’
Q: How long have you been painting?
A: Since 1986.
Q: It seems that you come from an artistic family, your brother also paints, doesn’t he?
A: ‘No, we are actually a family consisting of several magistrates. I myself am an autodidact when it comes to the art works. We have no artists in the past generation of the family. But it is true that my brother, who has traveled to several foreign countries has helped me through his advice on the basis of what he sees during his travels outside of Yemen. He gives me a briefing of what is going on elsewhere, and this helps a lot in my work. He himself is actually a doctor. My brother is actually a very talented calligraphist more than he is a painter.’
Q: During the opening of your exhibition you were surrounded by quite a group of people who seemed to be from your family. How does your family respond to your artistic work?
A: ‘My family respects my work and supports me for continuing on that path.
Q: What do you have to say about your drawings?
A: ‘I feel that my drawings are mainly influenced by the art of Islamic calligraphy, which I feel is the metaphor of a flowing river, never-ending and everlasting.’
Q: One renowned artist said that your work is like a pre-sculpture, the step one takes just before achieving a sculpture. Is this true to you?
A: ‘Yes, I admit that I find myself often imagining forms when I work, however this is not a conscious thought. I actually let things come as they do. I don’t aim at a sculptural form as the final goal.’
Q: Your work is very linear and as you said yourself, there is a touch of calligraphy to a lot of your work. Have you been influenced by someone or by a technique?
A: ‘No, I do feel inspired by calligraphy but what concerns my style is that it is a very personal expression that you see in my drawings. I don’t feel that I have copied someone.’
Q: You say that you are an autodidact artist. Since when did you start drawing?
A: ‘I started it during the leisure moments in my life. As a child I was not able to study. I was very ambitious and one of my greatest aims was to become a journalist. To be one of those who make history, who help make changes in the society. I felt like wanting to be part of those who build a bridge between the people and the intellectual milieu. Because I was not able to educate myself as I wanted in order to become a journalist, I utilized the free time that life offered, that is how I started drawing, to fill-up time.’
We hope that Yahya will be given the honor he deserves as an artist and that there will be a follow-up exhibition of his work in the near future. This artist should be given the support those who are proud of their culture and traditions. Yahya has all it needs to make his work truly international. It is our hope that his latest exhibition would be the starting point of a new artistic movement.