Mai Al Moataz is an artist, dead rose collector, and space designer. For the past decade, she has used black and white film to produce photographs and photograms through a meticulous analog darkroom process, a deeply cathartic ritual. Her images are romantically solitary and ethereal, as they present emblems of loneliness, longing, nostalgia and femininity. With hints of isolation and speckles of imagination, she explores the subjects of her portraits as a paradox of the internal versus the external, and where they meet, using time, space, light and chemistry to deconstruct the experiential universe.
Raz Hansrod (RH) from GPP, asked Mai Al Moataz (MM) a couple of questions about her work, and the process behind it.
RH: Hi Mai! First things first, where are you from and where are you based?
RH: And before we get into the actual process, what draws you to the photographic medium?
MM: Passion, obsession, visual expression, magic.
RH: Whats the motivation behind doing many prints of a rose, in the difficult medium of silver gelatin? How about an insight into the technical construction of one of these prints?
MM: The medium itself is my obsession, the Rose is a motif in my work, and another obsession - whether as a layer or as the focal point/main subject. Darkroom and manual printing is a cathartic process for me, I love the solitary aspect of it. With this series specifically, a huge part of the work is based on the element of chance, and what may arise from experimenting and playing, instead of being very focused and strict. Although the method generally dictates precision, in this series, I didn't want to be precise. I used semi dead roses instead of crispy dead ones, I added different layers to create density and tonal range with the exposures, I used expired chemicals so that the prints silver over time, and I washed the prints in a bathtub because the darkroom I used wasn't really very ideal for fibre paper.
RH: What do you hope to incite in the viewer?
MM: I don't really know, that's up to the person seeing them. The concept behind the series is that the work is divided into pairs - the idea of two lovers who never meet. So there's this poetic aspect as well as this harsh reality, and it's generally a love story we all face somewhere in our lives, right? The meeting point can be metaphorical, physical, emotional - but there's always a disconnect. So perhaps the viewer can see that, perhaps they see something else.
RH: Any advice or words of wisdom you'd like to share with our audience?
MM: Don't ever stop. And if you do, start again.
Mai Al Moataz's work has been exhibited in a number of shows, including Vantage Point 4 at the Sharjah Art Foundation in (2016), Food is Culture at the Bahrain National Museum (2017), Tadafuq / Flow as a part of 21,39 Jeddah Art Week (2017), Sikka Art Fair (2017), Do You Trust Me? a collaboration between the Goethe Institute and Bahrain's Bin Mattar House (2017), Femmes: Par Des Artistes Femmes Bahreinies at the Unesco in Paris (2017), the Bahrain Fine Arts Annual Show (2018), Mnwr as a part of 21,39 Jeddah Art Week (2018), Hafez Gallery at Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi (2018), Conversations with the Self at Albareh Contemporary (2018), Hafez Gallery at Abu Dhabi Art (2018).
Her series Proof of Presence won first place in the Art Jameel Photography Award (2016).
To see more of Mai's work, check out her website: http://maialmoataz.co
Or, follow her on instagram: https://instagram.com/maialmoataz/