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Exploring Boundaries

Kuwait-born Tamara Al-Samerai talks to Egypt Today about her upcoming exhibit at Gypsum Gallery.
By Ahmed Mansour


Kuwaiti artist Tamara Al-Samerai’s Make Room For Me, loosely inspired by Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, opens at Gypsum Gallery on the 21st. Her paintings explore societal values that “tackle notions of revenge, fear, love, jealousy, absence and death, while negotiating the boundary between adolescence and adulthood,” as explained by Gypsum who go on to describe how a “sense of anxiety underlines Make Room For Me – at times palpable and at others, subtle.  … The tension is silent, discernible through the quiet emptiness of the paintings: a pack of dogs running towards an unspecified object, a vacant chair, a solitary cactus, an open laptop. Inanimate everyday objects seem to take on a life of their own and the space that Al-Samerai stages hints at an invisible presence.”

Egypt Today caught up with Al-Samerai ahead of the exhibit. Edited excerpts:



What inspired you to be an artist?  

Tamara Al-Samerai - Charcoal on Paper 2 I had always wanted to be a private investigator. I cannot trace [when I switched to art] back to one single incident but I took my first art class in high school. I started painting and continued till now.

I[‘d] say I have absolutely no talents other than painting, but I enjoy cooking.


What is the story you are you trying to tell through your art? 

I’m not trying to send a message to anybody, I’m only proposing situations and possibilities.


Tell us about your exhibition with Gypsum Gallery

I was recommended to Aleya Hamza curator and founder of Gypsum gallery by a fellow artist. She was interested in my work when she saw it and asked to meet. Luckily we both happened to be at Art Dubai 2013 at the same time, so we had a chance to meet and talk about the work and possibility of working together. Since then it’s been a great and constructive experience working with Gypsum. I look forward to showing my work on the 21st of January 2014.


How did Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer inspire you to create the images that were presented in your latest exhibition?

While I was reading the book, I found a lot of situations that were in tune with themes I’ve been exploring for a long time such as adolescent rivalry, jealousy, fighting, and friendship. I took these narratives from Tom Sawyer and wrote an adaptation of them using two characters to reenact them.


Tamara Al-Samerai - TableTell us which of the paintings represents the most value to you, and why does it hold such value?

“Make Room For Me” would probably represent the most value to me, which is why I entitled the exhibition after it. This painting feels like a page in an open notebook where over time more than one thing started happening on the same page. I would say it’s the most intimate piece in the exhibition because it uses words which is something I never include in my work. I usually shy away from text because I find it too exposing.


Tell us your plans for the future, and how you are planning to take your career to the next level

I am working on a new project in Beirut but where and when it will show is undetermined. I plan on taking my career to the next level simply by working.


Born in Kuwait in 1977, Tamara Al-Samerai lives and works in Beirut. She received a BA in Fine Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut in 2002 and most recently completed the inaugural year of the Home Workspace Program at Ashkal Alwan (2011-2012), Beirut. In 2011, she had her second solo exhibition at Agial Gallery entitled “Fleeting Fences.”

            Al-Samerai has participated in group exhibitions including “25 Ans De Creativite Arabe,” Institute Du Monde Arabe, Paris (2012); “All About Beirut,” White Box, Munich (2010); “Exposure,” Beirut Art Center, Beirut; MidEast Cut: International festival for alternative film and video, Denmark and Finland (2009); “Radius of Art” project Fladernbunker, Kiel, (2008); Dar Al Funoon, Kuwait (2007); “His Life is Full of Miracles,” Site Gallery, Sheffield, UK (2006); “Kent Explora, Strange Fruit,” Lebanon (2002). She has also participated in Braziers International Artists workshop, UK (2003) and AIW:A, the International Artists workshop, Aley (2005).

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