The Scoop: Alternative News & Views

Congratulations to the artists and organizers of Art, My Refuge: A painting exhibit featuring the works of artists who are new to Canada

Susan Gold Smith

26 November 2016 in Media

Art, My Refuge is an exhibition of three artists making their debut into the Windsor Community, Nozah Omar, Maham Gull, and Adnan Al-Zuhairi. When Nozah Omar told Malgorzatta Holec, her instructor at W5 (Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women): "Teacher, I can’t live without my painting!", the idea of this project was born. Nozah's enthusiasm for art is contagious. Two additional artists came into the project. A grant proposal to Windsor's Arts Culture and Heritage Fund was successful, and an experienced local artist, Danuta Gnat Siniarska, was asked to mentor the group. An intense process of reviewing past work and creating focused new work began. The Common Ground exhibition space was booked. The work was installed, and the exhibition Art, My Refuge, became a reality. The opening reception on November 18th was notably well attended.

There is a structure in the centre of the gallery, an iconic shelter, a simple house. The three artists collaborated on this particular work. The house is covered with drawings by the three artists. The instructor, Malgorzatta, participated with expository material on the roof. Danuta's husband built the structure. This hands-on experience in collage, installation, and collaborative art making and cooperative organizing will give these artists courage and momentum for continued public work. The paintings exhibited contain intense personal imagery and iconography. The work is technically well executed and there are many bright spots where the artists realize their vision. Danuta commented to me that "art can communicate beyond borders", and it is evident the teacher, Malgorzata, and the professional mentor, Danuta, were as inspired as the painters.

Nozah and Adnan are self taught artists. Three years ago Nozah came to Canada from Syria where she was a teacher. Her work moves from memory to iconography. There is much hope expressed in the paintings. Adnan came from Iraq in 2014. His imagery comes from a darker place, but there is a striking and brightly coloured rooster in one painting. His drawings of birds from memory reveal very good skills. Mahan Gull is a Pakistani artist now living in Windsor. Mahan has a Master of Fine art degree from University of Punjab. Her imagery is beautifully accomplished and realized through symbolism and text.

Windsor's cultural infrastructure was evident in the realization of this project. Windsor has the support of the Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women organization. It has passionate and responsive instructors like, Malgorzatta Holec. It has experienced, active artists like Danuta Gnat Siniarska. The City of Windsor Arts Culture and heritage Fund provides accessible funding possibilities. Common Ground is a unique and open professional venue for exhibiting living art. The Arts Council of Windsor Region's active arts calendar and Scoop Windsor publicize local events. But most important are the many active artists living in our city that have profound experiences and a desire to create, Adnan Al-Zuhairi, Maham Gull, and Nozah Omar.

The exhibition Art, My Refuge, runs at Common Ground Gallery at Mackenzie Hall in Sandwich Towne until November 30th.