Being Art-spirational

A look into how Indian contemporary artistes are creating waves in the UAE through their expressions

By Leena Kewlani and Shreya Alagramam

Published: Wed 26 Jan 2022, 3:08 PM

As expats, Indians call Dubai their second home, and although living in another country is a great opportunity to learn about a new culture, it is often a challenge to stay connected to the roots of your ancestors. Meet some fantastic artists who have been living in Dubai for years, yet the art they create speaks volumes about their inspiration, memories and lives back in India. They have grown and learnt traditional Indian art forms, but have found a style of their own. Meet some of the artists who are showcasing their talent at

Smriti Sinha

“Art is limitless and experimentation with diverse mediums always inspires new insights,” says Smriti. This sentiment is certainly reflected in Smriti’s diverse portfolio of paintings, sketches, sculptures and performance art. Smriti began her artistic journey at the young age of 10 and went on to earn a diploma in graphic design. She now has over 20 years of experience in painting, interior design and graphics. Smriti draws inspiration from those fellow artists and mentors who supported her artistic journey. “Growing up in Patna, India in the 1960s, art was an unconventional choice for a woman. However, it was all the strong women in my life who encouraged my passion.” As a tribute to these special women, several of Smriti’s creations focus on women as the central subject.

Her painting ‘Mother and Child – The Wait’ portrays Smriti’s childhood memories and the landscape she grew up in. “As a child, I had the privilege of visiting villages across India. I was awestruck by the people and their rustic, organic way of living and their use of bright colours,” reminisces Smriti. The memories of these quaint villages are something that Smriti will always hold close to her heart.

Shobha Iyer

Shobha is a self-taught, Dubai-based freelance artist, who constantly strives to learn more about the vast world of art. “My love is colours and their vast combinations”, Shobha passionately proclaims. This love for colour reflects in her vibrant artworks. Though her preference has always been oil painting, she has worked extensively with watercolours, acrylics, mixed media, fabric paints and more. “I am inspired by the beautiful Kerala mural style of art,” Shobha tells us. Kerala murals is an ancient Indian artform that takes inspiration from Hindu mythology. The Kerala mural style is famous for its incredibly intricate and colourful portrayal of Hindu deities, which showcases the subjects donning decadent costumes and jewellery. Shobha’s painting ‘Kasol’ was inspired by a vacation at one of the most beautiful destinations in India. Kasol is a stunning hamlet in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. According to Shobha, “A breathtaking view of wonderful scenery inspired me to do this on canvas”. She has used a unique technique to create realism on the rocks, which was the most challenging part of the painting to create.

Adheena Nidhal

“I started painting when I was four years old,” says Adheena. Her talents were noticed by her teacher, who encouraged her to pursue the arts. This passion for art led her to the field of interior design. She enjoys this field as it allows her to use her creativity to strategically plan, design and deliver unique artworks to clients. She particularly enjoys painting and creating pottery.

Adheena is inspired by the hard-working pottery artisans of India. “In India, potters generally do not go to school and do not get a chance to experience life beyond their homely boundaries; despite these limitations, they are very talented,” she explains. This admiration for Indian potters motivated her to create ‘Beauty of Mud’. It is a mixed media painting depicting the top perspective of a potter's wheel. The hand and pot were all sculpted with clay. This painting portrays the love, respect and connection a potter has with his medium. According to Adheena, "There has to be harmony and synchronisation between the potter and the wheel, as they bring to life any piece together.”

Shyamala Venkatesh

Though never formally instructed in art, Shyamala has always had a penchant for it. Art developed into a passionate hobby for her over the past few years in Dubai. With encouragement from family and friends, she held her first solo exhibition of 30 paintings in Bangalore, India in 2003. Her paintings range from landscape and seascapes to horses and Indian village scenes. “I am hugely inspired by figurative art — that is, people caught in a moment in time which I try to translate in my own style,” says Shyamala. She finds purpose and satisfaction when viewers connect with the emotions depicted in her art. Her painting ‘Bound Forever’ is a perfect example of figurative art. It depicts a loving embrace between an Indian mother and daughter, against the backdrop of a quintessential Indian village. “The mother-child bond is precious and is the deepest of all relationships. Here, the little girl is warm, secure, and happily embracing her mother,” reflects Shyamala. The vivid colours in this painting are reflective of traditional Indian clothing and the vibrant aesthetic of India as a whole.

Gomathi Shiva

Gomathi is a self-taught artist who has participated in exhibitions across the UAE, India, Sri Lanka and China. “My paintings are influenced by art, nature, culture and are an attempt to portray emotions that connect and touch the lives of people,” says Gomathi. She believes there is magic in everything around us and draws inspiration for her paintings from a variety of subjects – the joys of friendship, the beauty of dried leaves, the compassion of wild animals and much more.

As an artist from India, she treasures the moments she has spent meeting people across the region and enjoys translating those memories into artworks. Her love for Indian culture inspired her to create ‘Jalikattu’. This painting is a depiction of a traditional south Indian village game of the same name. This game has been practised for centuries in South India to celebrate the arrival of the Indian harvest season. The two men in yellow are shown fighting a bull as part of this extreme sport. The abstract style and simple colours and textures in this painting help to create depth. Nowadays, Indian expats have been unable to visit their hometowns as easily as before because of the pandemic and ever-changing travel restrictions. In such challenging times, it is no wonder why so many Dubai-based Indians are using art as a medium through which they can connect with and reminisce our fond memories. With Art, it allows us to relive fond memories and emotions, and express our love for our home – India.

— Leena Kewlani is the Co-Founder and Shreya Alagramam is the Account Executive at Online Art Gallery

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