Houda Terjuman: Checking In
How has your work been affected by the events of the last six months?
This pandemic brought an under-thread of fear, but I slowly started sheltering in place. Isolation ended up being a period of creativity and I started appreciating confronting the stillness. Art has the power to reinstate aspiration. With art galleries and museums shut down to slow down the spread of Covid-19, I started adapting to a new reality. The use of technology and social media has revealed new perspectives.
I tried to adapt to a “new normal” and have a positive approach to the challenge by strengthening my online presence, creating content, connecting with gallerists, curators and artists, and sharing together our thoughts, fears, and hopes.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment and what your inspiration was?
My work explores identity, displacement and stability. The search of a home becomes a stressful and painful process that shows the connectivity and heterogeneity of our de-territorialized world. I am inspired by nature and stories of migration, resilience and exile. Since the lockdown, isolation has been a central theme for me, and I started painting and sculpting lonely objects in nature.
How have your plans for 2020 and beyond been changed?
This pandemic slowed down a few ongoing exhibitions. I am in a touring exhibition with the Aga Khan Museum and the Italian Imago Mundi that will tour in Canada, the USA, Europe and the Middle East. Hopefully, the tour will continue after having had to stop for the last six months. Otherwise, a few of the exhibitions I am involved with have become virtual. I am participating in the SWAB Barcelona Art Fair, which is exhibited virtually as well. Exhibitions are slowly returning to normal and I don’t anticipate further cancellations or delays for future shows.
Born in Tangier, Morocco to a Syrian father and Swiss mother, Houda Terjuman’s parents had embarked on a new life in the 1970s after having lived in Italy and Mali. Whilst growing up in Tangier, Terjuman was exposed to a diverse environment with people belonging to different cultures, languages and religions living side by side in peace and mutual tolerance.
Self-taught as an artist – because her parents had preferred for her to do a BA in Management at the American College of Switzerland in Leysin – her signature materials are sponge cardboard, wire and wood plaster for her delicate sculptures and oil on canvas for her paintings. For Terjuman, each piece is a little tale about the themes closest to her heart, be they of migration, resilience, open-mindedness, roots or a flip side of anxiety and insecurities.
Terjuman has had solo shows around the world, such as in Madrid (Spain) at the Casa Árabe, in Paris (France), at the Institut du Monde Arabe, in London (UK), with Arts Cabinet Research, as well as Lisbon (Portugal), Dubai (UAE), Tunis (Tunisia) and extensively in Morocco; whilst participating in international group exhibitions in many European cities and being represented in contemporary art fairs, including the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Marrakesh.
She is part of the current touring exhibition organized by the Aga Khan Museum in collaboration with the Italian Imago Mundi, which addresses the subject of identity for migrant art practitioners and cross-cultural artistic realities. Bringing the works of 15 artists whose backgrounds involve 25 different countries, it is a travelling project that started in Italy and will continue by visiting Canada, the United States, Europe and the MENA region.
About her art, Terjuman says: “The history of my practice is overwhelmingly informed by my status as hybrid migrant, a condition associated to second generation migrants. The transient nature of my evolution as a person and as an artist opened up fascinating ways of playing with representation in art. I cherished the status of hybridity which to me, offers a rich mix of backgrounds, voices, and belongings. My sculptures and paintings are little familiar objects that weave stories. These small objects act as bearers of hope and bridges making the link between cultures. An empty chair symbolizes what we left behind and keeps us connected to our roots. A lonely boat, is a bearer of hope. A floating bridge invites us to build connections and empathy towards the unknown.”