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March 19, 2019

Questions and Answers with Julia Ibbini


How did your journey as an artist begin?

I’ve been making art since I was a very young child and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. However, it took until my early 30’s to actually label myself an artist. I spent most of my 20’s crippled with self-doubt about my abilities and then at some point, something changed. I had the thought “right, enough with that BS, I’m going to just try and make stuff.” I guess it started there.


What do artists do all day? What happens in your studio?

It starts with tea. Then I survey the complete chaos that is my workspace. My work is very meticulous, but it needs to be made in a space that is strewn with paper and other detritus. Once I’ve mapped out my day – all the machines (three computers and my laser cutter) are switched on and it’s sort of a dance between the machines and the physical assembly of the work for the rest of the day. Punctuated with more tea.


Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with technology and machines?

My entire practice is deeply intertwined with technology. I work very quickly – almost frantically, I want the work to be highly detailed and multi-faceted – but, I make a lot of mistakes and frequent changes. Computers make that process possible.


I’m always very careful to make sure a human element remains in the work. It’s that play between my hands (and all the human error that comes with them) and the machine’s precision that makes the work special.


What are you most proud of?

How my practice has progressed and evolved.

I was invited to take part in the Islamic Arts Festival at the Sharjah Art Museum last December. It’s a fabulous space and the pieces I showed there were some of my most complex. The opening was one of those moments where I was able to step back and realize how far the work had come.


What’s life like in the United Arab Emirates?

Hot. It frequently hits 50°C (that’s over 120°F) in the summer, winters are fantastic though.

It’s a very young country and there’s a tremendous energy and will to succeed, particularly in Dubai. Everything happens at a very fast pace. I have spent my whole life here so I’ve literally seen cities rise from the desert in the span of three decades, which is incredible.


What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not making work?

I run. I love distance running and when I have enough time to train I run ultra-marathons. The furthest I’ve run so far is 100km (62 miles) through the mountains in a day.


If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you would have become?

Probably very lost.



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