Artist of the month, June 19: Hassan Sheikh

With June marking Refugee Week, Laura Miles speaks to Outside In artist of the month Hassan Sheikh who reveals how a journey from Somalia to Bristol led him to discover art, and how now it offers him an important form of self-medication.

Hassan Sheikh

Why and when did you start making art?
It was four or five years ago, my therapist mentioned an art therapy group in a session and said it might be good for me. I really enjoy it. I worry a lot but now I look forward to attending.
As I have no friends or family here the group is like my friends and family, it is a place to meet different people and see how they use art.

It helps me a lot. The main thing is for me to go out of the house and the opportunity to meet other people – people who have the same situation as me, or worse. I am happy to do it, it has helped my wellbeing.
To me it is like self-medication, it is a release – it is a hobby but if I miss a day I feel something is missing. To me it is a good place to be.

Grandmothers Garden by Hassan Sheikh

How would you describe your artwork?
I like drawing places and gardens, I have a lot of artworks – it just comes to me.
Because I come from Somalia, and the area is used to live is very uneducated, I think drawing things, like the clothes shop, is because you will see paintings on all the walls there – same with the pharmacy, instead of written signs.

Clothes Shop by Hassan Sheikh

What do you hope other people take from your work?
I am not the best of the best. I know I am not at a high level but I do what I can and I enjoy it.
I try not to doubt myself, but I draw and I am someone who hasn’t learned to read or write. I come from far away. I hope people will understand me and also see what they can achieve.
It was hard when I came here to communicate. For me my artwork is of history, the pieces I make are something that has happened, when I look back I can remember it – it is like a diary for me.
Now we have technology people take pictures on their smartphones but they never print them, art is different, I hope my work will inspire people to frame things.
I can’t use computers or do anything with online, without painting I wouldn’t have this chance – it is something amazing for me.

What are your hopes for the future?
Of course I would like my art to be included in shows and I would like to see progress – it is my power now.

Click here to visit Hassan’s Outside In artist gallery

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