Who is Amira the artist? What is your aesthetic? What does your artwork represent?
I am a painter with a penchant for color. I have explored color as a muse for the past year and a half. The fastest way for me to develop my sense of color, I have found, is through abstract expressionist painting. Although I never imagined I would one day be painting abstractly, I have found that I am able to express myself without boundaries or expectations. I would describe my personal aesthetic as minimal, modern [and] vibrant. I am drawn toward rich contrasts in both color and texture.
My artwork today represents women all over the world. I am inspired by people, humanity in general and especially the plight of womanhood. Painting is a very sensual and soulful activity. So, be it abstraction or figurative, I see my work as a reflection of my experience as a woman; and, hopefully, other people can relate and identify with my work.
When did you start making art?
My earliest memories of art go back to at least seven years old. My mom signed me up for a drawing workshop at the Newark Museum in New Jersey, and I still remember being in the classroom and learning things like shading, perspective and form as early as then. I loved every minute of it.
When did you realize art was your passion and decide to make it your profession?
I was passionate about art at a young age. Fortunately, my parents encouraged and supported me as best as they could. I still remember days when I would be sad or having a rough time in school or in my big family, and my mom would take me to the art store and let me buy supplies. It was an early habit, you could say.
However, like many other people from working-class families, the arts were never presented to me as a viable career option. Even in school, all of the examples of artist I learned about were these mystified characters often stricken with depression, addiction and poverty. Fame was only achieved after death. I didn’t decide to paint professionally until I met my husband. He really supported me early on and encouraged me to pursue my art full time. He gave me full license to paint, and now I have a house full of canvases everywhere to his surprise!
What materials do you usually work with?
My main materials now are acrylic paints, oil pastel and inks. I enjoy the vibrancy of inks and the rich textures you can create with pastels. Acrylics allow me to paint fearlessly, and I have found it much more forgiving and immediate than oils, which I had been painting with previously for years.
You returned to art once you moved to Abu Dhabi. What was it about the place or your circumstances that made it the right time to get back in to art?
A lot of circumstances led me to painting full time in Abu Dhabi. Namely, being away from family and friends forced me to find a creative outlet again. I wasn’t adjusting well to the environment here and started to feel a bit isolated as a new wife in a new country. Being out of my comfort zone basically forced me to look at who I was completely and how I was going to lead my life here. I knew that I wanted to create. I’m a maker. And so, the lifestyle here has allowed me to do just that.
Part of your artist statement is the following: “My work is an attempt to create the beauty that I hope for in the world. I begin with an emotion or vision of a painting in my head and then intuitively seek to find it on the canvas. The often spontaneous and layered nature of my process gives each of my paintings its own unique energy. I draw from my experiences of travel and cultural studies in my work and attempt to explore them with a curious optimism for the human condition.”
Could you explain this process to us a bit more?
In general, I think making art is a very cathartic process. For me, each piece of art I create starts from some emotion. Sometimes the emotions aren’t pretty, but I know I can find beauty on the canvas and in my work. That’s why I create.
So in the above statement, I’m just acknowledging my need to relinquish to the creative process and enjoy the process of making art for the joy of making in and of itself. What’s ironic is that, although the creation process is often in solitude, it makes me feel more connected to my own humanity and therefore more connected to the people around me. I can go on and on and get even deeper, but this is generally what I mean.
You’ve recently launched the Summer Safari Collection. What did you want to accomplish with that?
I wanted to create a collection of fun, whimsical animals; and, of course, most were camels. This collection was so fun to create because I was able to tap into my inner child and just play. I loved adding every detail, down to the colorful strands of hair and up to the Moroccan-inspired detailing in some of the camels. I’m not finished yet; I have lots more camels to share. And who knows what other animals will spring up!
In the collection, we see beautiful vibrant images of desert animals. What about these animals captured your interest? What made you decide to show them in such a vibrant and playful way?
Being in Abu Dhabi, camels are sort of iconic here. They are so friendly and cuddly in person. So many of us are here as expats. We have left (in many cases) our family and friends behind, and it can be rough. It’s not always sunshine and mocktails, you know? So, in some small way, I feel like the camels I paint speak to that friendship we all hope for when we get here. They are funny and innocent, and I think so many people relate to them because it’s a way to lighten up.
Art doesn’t have to be so serious and cerebral. These paintings are the opposite of that. They’re like antidepressants that you hang on your wall!
Can you choose three of your art works and tell us a bit about them?
This was the very first camel selfie I created about a year and a half ago. He’s my favorite. Although, “Clarence” (the second camel) seems to be more popular at the moment. Humphrey is the sarcastic smirking one and makes me smile.
This painting is very special to me because it represents a leap in my growth as an abstract artist. I experimented with different mediums and glazing to achieve what I believe [is] one of my best paintings yet. It was purely experimental, and as I was seeing it develop, I wasn’t sure about the colors and composition. It is quite different than my previous abstracts. I often tried to recreate this piece since then, but it is hard to duplicate that sense of wonder and spontaneity with such success. I am happy to say that this painting found its home (shortly after I painted it) with a lawyer couple in Abu Dhabi.
In my veiled figurative collection, I explore themes of tradition, customs and conformity. The figures [are] faceless, have a ghost-like quality, and evoke emotion even without discernible expressions.
I have been inspired by the abayas and traditional dress of the women in the gulf. The stark black garb stands out in such an elegant and strong way. I knew I wanted to capture that, as well as countless examples of other traditional clothing across the Muslim world. I was able to use my love of color and abstract compositions to my advantage and develop a unique look to veiled women that can represent the sisterhood in cultures all over (including Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, etc., to name a few). They are extremely fun to paint, and I enjoy discovering new stories within the paintings each time.
You can now enjoy Amira’s art on your desk with here 2016 calendar, purchase link: Amirarahim.com/gifts/
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