Forces of Creativity Issue

Capturing the Fading Contrasts of Kuwait’s Past and Present

This autodidact visual artist has the power to instantly transport the viewers to a bygone era in Kuwait.

By Vittoria Volgare

Memory of a Mother by Mohammad Alkouh.

For Kuwaiti Mohammad Alkouh, art is his second nature, something he has always done before realising it was called Art.

‘I used to draw and paint until my early 20s. Then I started to be drawn more towards photography.’ While practising this art form, he realised he had found his voice.

Today, at 39 years old, this autodidact visual artist has the power to instantly transport the viewers to a bygone era in Kuwait.

Using analogue photography, archival materials and drawings, Alkouh preserves Kuwait’s heritage for future generations.

‘People often describe my work as nostalgic. However, the main idea behind it is not solely about nostalgia but rather about emphasising the contrast between the past and the present, with a subtle hint of fading.’

The artist explores the juxtaposition of ‘what once existed and what exists no longer.’

In his work, some aspects are intentional, while much of it is guided by instinct.

He takes great interest in architecture in all its forms. He has captured images of old and new Kuwait, desert landscapes, camping sites, and even fishing methods, all of which contain architectural elements.

He first prints the photos in black and white: ‘They appear somewhat lifeless, lacking the strong contrast typically associated with traditional black and white photographs. Interestingly, this effect happens naturally in the darkroom without any conscious decision on my part,’ Alkouh explains.

Afterward, the artist hand-colours the images to revitalise them. ‘However, the colours emerge already faded, as if the work itself is self-aware of its own mortality, gradually fading away and resisting any attempts at revival.’

Alkouh’s approach to colour photography is the same, aiming to convey a sense of lifelessness: ‘It’s how I personally perceive and feel the images.’

In his series, Tomorrow’s Past, Alkouh takes us on a journey through the Gulf country’s iconic landmarks. Throughout 2012, he immortalised the structures that defined Kuwait’s Golden Era from the 1950s to the 1970s. During that time, the oil industry led to prosperity and social and urban transformation.

According to the artist, many of the architectural gems he portrays in the series were once symbols of Kuwait’s growth and independence but have been neglected or demolished, erasing the country’s identity along with them.

This article is part of the Forces of Creativity Issue. To continue reading the article, click here to buy a digital copy of the issue.

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