2008 - A Sense of Place

Earlier this year the National Art Gallery (NAG), Maldives, hosted its first artist-in-residence. Even though the gallery has been facilitating (through financial support and creating networking opportunities) local artists to participate in artist residency programs abroad, this was the first initiative to invite an artist to stay and work in the country.

Artist residencies were given a high priority in the gallery's programs from the very inception, with the establishment of the gallery. Due to the lack of an art college or formal art education facility in the country, it was felt that sufficient effort would have to be put into the professional development and (academic) exposure of artists to the regional and global trends in the production and consumption of visual art. Hence, successful arrangements were negotiated with arts organizations in Sri Lanka (Theertha International Artists' Collective), Australia (Craft Victoria), India (Seher), Mauritius (Par-tage) and Bangladesh (Britto) for Maldivian artists to travel, work with international artists and to exhibit to audiences in these countries. This in itself was an invaluable experience-both to the artists and to the NAG, in that it helped to further the gallery's objective of facilitating Maldivian art to find internationally relevant contexts.

Due to these engagements, it was with much expectation and excitement that the artist Nick Law, a graduate of Gray's School of Art, Scotland, UK, was invited to spend three months in the Maldives as a resident artist. His brief was to produce a body of work that reflected his experience in the country. And it was also planned in such a way that during the three month period, local artists will have access to the resident artist and benefit from interaction and transfer of skills.

Although there were many mishaps in realising all of the objectives of initiating a recedency program at home - most notably, the inablity of the gallery to organize a suitable studio space for the artistin which to work and which would allow easy access to local artists and students, many worthwhile lessons have been learned, and these would be seriously considered when planning similar programs in the future. Although Nick Law had gratuated only recently, at the time of his residency, he had also been the recipient of a Royal Scottish Acedemy Scholarship which facilitated him to travel and paint in Florence, Italy, for three months. Majored in painting, Laws' work dealt with distilling a 'sense' of place in his paintings and photographs. Influenced by realists and 20th century painters such as Edward Hopper who had explored the sense of urban alienation in American towns and cities. During the residency in the Maldives, Law managed to travel to the resorts as well as to inhabited islands and documented his trips with photographs which later he used as references to the paintings produced in the studio space in Male'. Increasingly, he lso left photos as they were sometimes cropped for compsitional purposes, as finished works themselves. His final exhibition comprises of 35 photographs and 7 oil paintings, all produced in the three month period spent in the Maldives. Although the residency was primarily funded by the NAG, the success of the residency was made possible by the support of the advisory comission to the NAG, Mauroof Jameel. Hence, we are indebted to him for providing the resident artist with a studio space at very short notice.

Mamdhooh Waheed

From: 13 October 2008 To: 14 November 2008

At: National Art Gallery

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