Interview – Fatima Al Romaithi – Belgrade Art Studio Online Residency


When did you first become interested in arts?

Growing up, I was surrounded by people who indulged in art every now and then. I recall, when I was a kid, my mom was in the garden of our house drawing a tree. Another moment I like to visit, is being invited to a family friend’s house and painting the walls of their garden. With occasional exposure to art, I eventually took up art as a hobby of mine, and I went from making characters out of tissue paper rolls with my cousin, to drawing still life and portraits. When I got into college, I intended to study Civil Engineering. In times of struggle, I resorted to art to take me out of my reality, at least for a brief moment. When I realized that my passion lied in the arts all along, I had to take a leap of faith and pursue Art and Art History, as this is what I see myself doing for the rest of my life.

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

When art was a hobby of mine, I used to find emotional portraits on the Internet and draw them. My excuse was, “they are very interesting to draw” but it is much more than that. To make it more personal, I started taking pictures of people in emotional states, and used these images to fuel my practice. I felt responsible to speak on behalf of those who cannot, for whatever reason, allow themselves to be vulnerable.

Art as a ‘sanctuary’?

I think art can be a sanctuary to everyone, even if they do not normally practice art. I’ve been taking online courses in Art Therapy, and it is mind blowing what art can do to your state of mind.

What does your work investigate? What are the things which catch your attention?

There is a lot that I wish to talk about in my work, but at the moment I’m working with themes of vulnerability, authenticity, and shame. Dr. Brene Brown’s research has fueled my practice in this regard.

What is most important to you as an artist?  Is it the hope for a certain reaction in the observer?  Or is it to accurately create a certain environment?

Actually, I am still trying to figure out some things, like what I hope for my work to do. One thing I know for certain is that I am drawn to emotional portraiture.

To what extent does the pandemic influence your depiction of art? Does it generate new inspiration?  

At the start of the pandemic, I had no inspiration to work on my art. Even as I forced myself to sit down and work, my pieces didn’t have the quality that I aim for. As time went by, I adapted to the new normal, and I found myself reaching for my materials and working on my project.

How do you feel about being involved in an online residency program? How important is to stay connected with the international art community?

It is absolutely crucial. The lack of connection with artists, in general, negatively affected my practice at the beginning of the pandemic. Which is why I am grateful for online opportunities as I get to have important and fruiful discussions that inspire and boost my practice. What is more, is to engage with the international community vs. the local community, and learn how our backgrounds influenced their practice.

What are your thoughts about the theme ‘artist on standby’? Tell us a bit more about your project…

The challenge here was linking the word ‘artist’ with the word ‘standby’. Now that I’m abroad, I find that this is easier to make sense of. Even though I am technically on vacation, I absolutely must have my materials with me. I will be ready with my materials until that moment strikes when I pull out my sketchbook and begin to paint a picture.

What do you want to achieve before things return to normal?

I am worried that when things go back to normal, there won’t be online opportunities to participate in. So, for now, I am applying to every opportunity that comes my way so that I can improve myself alongside the international community of artists.

Any future plans/projects?

At the moment, no. I just like to keep working on a project until I come across something that inspires me to work on something else.