Dubai: Maha Al Mazrouei hopes 'Elements' brings calmness to viewers
The Emirati artist is exhibiting her latest collection of oil-on-canvas artworks in the city.
If you are an art and nature enthusiast, Emirati artist Maha Al Mazrouei’s latest exhibition is sure to pique your imagination. Her distinctive oil-on-canvas artworks collectively titled ‘Elements’, now on display at Peruvian restaurant COYA Dubai, aim to make an impact on the minds and souls of their audience with an abstract expressionist and cubistic interpretation of different elements of nature. And, she doesn’t title her individual paintings because she doesn’t want to limit the imagination of her patrons.
Maha who studied at the Northwest College of Art in the US and Royal Academy of Arts in the UK and has had her artworks featured in the iconic Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Vitavelli Maldives, Dubai Airport lounges and other prominent locations, believes the UAE’s art scene has grown rapidly in the last decade.
We caught up with the artist who also has a background in business and photography to talk about her latest exhibition.
What can you tell us about your new exhibition ‘Elements’?
This exhibition is inspired by my love and fascination for the earth elements, water and fire. It comprises 13 abstract oil paintings which I have executed using a palette knife, with each artwork tied with colours I enjoyed working with. Elements are all around us in Mother Nature, I love looking deeper into these elements and portraying them with different textures and shapes.
Cubism, a revolutionary approach by Picasso and Braque to represent alternate views of things in the same picture, opened up amazing possibilities for the depiction of visual reality in art, while abstract expressionists wanted to portray profound emotions and universal themes using abstraction. What inspired you to take up these techniques and use them in your work?
I’m lucky to have tried both approaches in art. I have one particular art piece in this series which was derived from the cubistic approach and the rest of the pieces are abstract. I would say I prefer abstract because I’m able to express more of my spirituality and imagination through it. I like the rich texture and hues of oil colour which I don’t mix with anything. Exploring different ways to portray these elements on canvas is very relaxing for me.
An artist’s muses often change. What are the subjects that have aroused your interest over the years?
Yes indeed! I started out with a project for Burj Al Arab; at the time I was very interested in Islamic Art and Cubism. I combined the two, mixing the old Islamic designs in rich modern colours using a cubistic approach. It was a very challenging technique especially because oil paint takes a long time to dry, and I had to build up different layers to create a 3-D effect and cubistic look on the painting. I came up with a rich texture palette knife technique by coincidence while I was exploring painting in oil. I also started adding Japanese textured paper to my work. I travel a lot and explore different countries’ art techniques and try to combine them with my own approach to create my own style. I think every artist should explore in order to find their own identity.
Abstract styles like cubism encourage viewers to interpret art differently and the three-dimensional form is a metaphor for real life, where nothing is really ‘two-sided’. What would you like people to take away from your paintings?
I would like people to “feel” when they look at my work. As a very spiritual person myself, I put a lot of spirituality and strong feelings in my artwork through colour and texture. My aim is for my artwork to bring calmness and happiness to the viewer and I am lucky to hear that this is what people feel when they see my paintings.
Does your background in photography have an impact on your artwork in any way? Does it make you see things differently?
Yes! Although I would not call myself a photographer, but I’d like to think I have a good eye and a gift to see beauty around me. Different angles and close up shots give me a different view of things.
What first got you interested in art and how did you develop your talent?
I have always felt love for painting and art since I was a kid. It was not until I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems that I realised it is not what I wanted to do. I thought life is just too interesting for me to spend it behind a desk all the time. So, I started taking different art courses in Dubai, London, and the USA. I also started visiting different art galleries around the world and tried to find my own identity in art. It was a challenge which I think I succeeded in!
You have had your artwork displayed at prominent places in the UAE - like Burj Al Arab and the Dubai Airport lounges and even on a postage stamp in the ‘90s. What are your thoughts on the evolving art scene in the country?
I think it has grown rapidly in the last ten years. Now it’s harder as an Emirati to get into big projects because there is a lot of competition. My next goal is to participate in Expo 2020. As an Emirati artist, I know I have to represent my country in this extraordinary event. I want to make my country proud.
Covid-19 is a particularly difficult time for people and that includes artists and creative persons. Did the pandemic influence your art in any way? What are some of the lessons you have learned during this time?
In the beginning, yes. Nevertheless, I don’t believe in the impossible and this is what our leadership has taught us. Definitely, I was put down when several events were cancelled because of the pandemic. I also lost a great deal of money shipping my artwork to London for a summer 2020 event but it was eventually cancelled. But what I learned in life is to remember to stand up after every fall.
How do you feel about your work ‘Elements’ being exhibited at COYA Dubai?
I’m very excited to display my works at COYA Dubai. I’m exceptionally happy that the colours and concept of my paintings blended amazingly with the restaurant’s beautiful interior. One piece of feedback I loved from one of the visitors is that they felt good energy and calmness while having their food and looking at my paintings.
Tell us about what your perfect ‘cultural’ day out in Dubai would include…
The perfect cultural day out would definitely include a visit to Hatta and just disconnecting with the city and connecting with the surrounding mountains and the locals. I also love hiking and meeting simple people who actually still live in the mountains. It’s amazing to know that this part of the world still exists. These hiking trips increase my spirituality.
Maha Al Mazrouei’s latest exhibition ‘Elements’ will be on display at COYA Dubai, Restaurant Village, Four Seasons Resort Jumeirah, till May 22.