Abu Dhabi: Emirati artist Maha Al Mazrouei wants to spread hope and happiness through her paintings

Her collection is currently on display at COYA restaurant in Abu Dhabi.


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 13 Jun 2022, 11:35 AM

Last updated: Mon 13 Jun 2022, 11:40 AM

Whenever Maha Al Mazrouei runs her palette knife on the canvas, the Emirati artist strives to create beautiful paintings that will exude hope and happiness. And she has made works of wonder, which have found prime position in landmarks like the Burj Al Arab Hotel, Jumeirah Vitavelli Maldives, exclusive lounges of the Dubai International Airport and currently at COYA Abu Dhabi where her collection titled ‘Elements’ has been on display.

Maha draws her inspiration from classical elements: Earth, fire and water, and prefers the medium of abstract oil paintings, just like the old masters of art.

“Mother Earth attracts me a lot and that’s where I draw my inspiration from. Elements like fire and water inspire me. These elements are so clear in my vision that I get into an imaginative mood. I begin to feel what these elements would mean to me, and then I can represent it in my way,” she told City Times during her visit to COYA Abu Dhabi.

Maha keeps her paintings and themes simple with an objective to easily relate with people.

“I wish to give people a peace of mind, something to relax, to reflect and to imagine. Art exhibitions must spread happiness, we get hope, we renew ourselves by seeing something positive. But nowadays artists are creating works on the problems in our lives like pollution and climate issues. You will see dark colours coming out and a splash of black on the canvas, so, you are not giving the visitor a peace of mind.”

Maha doesn’t give titles to her paintings, lets people imagine and likes to listen to their perspective.

“I am letting people think as each one of us has a different imagination. I am trying to get people to go deep into the painting.”

Now it's quantity over quality

She pointed out that currently artists are more focused on quantity than quality of work.

“The old masters of art always used oil paints. It’s very rich, the colours are very deep, and that’s what catches my eye. Nowadays artists are moving away from oil painting because they want to do 10 pieces a week. They want to do more projects, which is why they use acrylic that dries faster. It helps them to take on more projects. It’s about money. I want my painting to talk to people. I don’t mind if a painting takes six months but at the end it must capture what’s in my imagination. And the only medium which creates that is through oil painting.”

Maha pointed out that using a palette knife on the canvas helps her create different layers on the canvas, which provides a 3D effect.

“Palette knives help me to create 3D paintings. When you stand in front of my painting and you move around, you will see another vision, that’s the 3D effect. I build up layers on top of each other to create this effect. This is made with pure oil paint, which takes a very long time to dry.”

Travelling, learning new things

Maha grew up watching her mother and aunt do artwork, but it was Tina Ahmed, her art teacher in college, who brought the best out of her.

“I always loved art since I was young. Even in school, my art teacher would ask me to do some projects for school. But back in 1994, when I graduated, there weren’t any universities to learn arts. My parents didn’t want me to travel abroad and stay alone. So, I did my bachelor’s in information systems here. But it wasn’t meant for me. During our college years, my college teacher, a known artist, Tina Ahmed, really pushed me. She is the reason why I am doing something in my life.”

Later, Maha went to the Northwest College of Art in the US and Royal Academy of Arts in the UK. Maha follows cubism, a novel approach at representing reality, which was invented by artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque – her favourites.

“It was in 1994 that I started to do artwork seriously. In 1998, I did my first project. I mixed Islamic art with modern touch, in a cubistic way for Burj Al Arab. One of my paintings has been used in the postal stamp.”

She loves travelling to villages, cities, art galleries, and is an avid hiker. She attends workshops and courses in the US and the UK, as she continues to learn new things about paintings.

“I keep teaching myself. Even though I have done several courses and workshops, I cannot move away from oil,” said Maha, who also loves photography and attended a workshop in Montenegro.

Plans to open her art gallery

The Dubai resident had taken a break from the world of arts after becoming a mother but now her children have grown up and Maha is looking to open her own art gallery.

“My daughter got married in March this year. I have three boys who can now take care of themselves. So, now I feel more settled. I have my own studio. I would have done some 500 paintings. I plan to open a gallery in future.”

COYA, a restaurant group, has been supporting artists and Maha’s paintings were exhibited in COYA Dubai last year and now in the Abu Dhabi outlet at the Four Seasons, The Galleria, on Al Maryah Island.

“If you see a photo of my painting, it doesn’t do justice. You must see them in person. All my paintings are of different layers. So, you can view it from different sides. When someone sits in a restaurant and look at a painting, I want them to feel calm, happy and positive,” the Emirati artist added.

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