1. As we at KM have seen, you incorporate more abstract themes in your paintings with barely any human figures, is there a reason for this?
Info: (Nonfigurative Abstraction is a genre of painting which emerged in the twentieth century, and has since been developing in a myriad of interpretations and styles. Its evolution has lots to do with the societal and media revolution.
Before the advent of camera, printing, television and the internet, the only way people could see pictures was when someone sketched them or painted them. Twentieth century changed it all when photography and printing became mainstream. Art then had a different function to perform other than making portraits of the human figures or represent events either from mythology or religion).
My paintings are made with many underlying emotional and inspirational catalysts, involving spiritual contemplation and expressionist realization of gestural movement. The subject is not humans or known objects. When I paint the Name of Allah, the underlying quest is to connect my heart with the painting while I am painting it and be present and involved with every stroke which goes in its formation. That’s why the result is exuberant canvases filled with movement, representing my state of mind at that moment of time.
I do not follow a deterministic method of making my art and the work evolves without my knowing where it is leading to. I keep moving along and working at it until a point it wouldn’t allow me to touch it any further.
There is no particular reason for me to not make any human figures. I have done it in the past, but was drawn to non-figurative styles. But while painting names of Allah series, human figures are totally out of the question. Allah is abstract and without any shape or form, that we can visualize with our senses in this world. He is mysterious and beautiful and that’s why abstract mystical realisations form the core body of work in this series.
2. How do your audience see this on a subjective basis when they analyze your work?
I think my audience engages with the feelings and emotion behind the painting on a spiritual level. Yes, there is an analytical process as an undercurrent but the engagement is with the energy and not an intellectual exercise of profound interpretations. If my painting succeeds in stimulating the spiritual and emotional, I think they succeed in becoming a lingering memory and that is what matters. The memory, which reminds of the magnificence of the supreme creator.
3.“Light and Love in the 99 names of Allah” is your series of work that will be displayed in Sofitel Palm on the 5th of March, could you tell us more about it?
Al Noor, The Light, is a name of Allah. Al Wadud, the loving, is also a name of Allah. Both the light and love are most needed in the times we are currently witnessing. We are surrounded by information to the point of drowning in it. And there is darkness within our souls which is the reason for the sadness and inner despair. We need the Light, to show us the way out of global conflicts and despair. Love has become commonplace as a word, often used but rarely contemplated upon. I heard a friend say a while ago, that love is scary. He doesn’t want to deal with it. I don’t think he is alone in this feeling. We are scared of it probably because of the hurt associated with it and have closed our hearts. Rumi eloquently says in a verse “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Hence, through this exhibition I want to bring people’s attention towards these two most important aspects of our human existence, which can connect all of us as humanity.
Light and love are closely connected and one leads to the other. Like Rumi’s verse, which has been my guiding light for a long time “In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”
4.How often does spirituality and faith play a role in your artworks?
The reason, I came to do the art was faith and spirituality. After spending two decades in corporate adverting, I left a highly successful career in 2002, to search for the truth and a reality greater than the rat race and the dog eat dog world. During that period, of intense learning and meditation, I would doodle often on large sketch books as a contemplative journaling exercise. I was also studying spiritual art and the role it played during the renaissance period, in Europe. Within a year, those doodles became the canvases, which I would spend hours layering with thoughts of the moment and then the collection kept growing and I had my first solo exhibition in 2004.
My quest is still the same, after being at it for nearly 14 years. I think, I read, meditate and make art. I haven’t found all my answers, but have learnt to live with the ambiguity. My faith has been reinforced due to the experiences I have had during these years. I tend to walk on the middle path though. Because we humans are too limited to understand the workings of the universe and its mysteries. If we live the world with a heart full of faith, then we are at peace and will not be troubled by every rub that we experience. It was faith that kept me steady on this bumpy road. It became the cause and the reason for this art and continues to guide my course through it.
5.You often play with feminine colour palettes as a male artist, does that have to do with romanticism or personal colour preferences and why?
Colours do not have a gender. They might be preferred or associated with either male or female gender for reasons of cultural or social conditioning. I am inspired by the beauty of certain colours and do not shy away from using them because of my gender or personal bias. I am not trying to represent myself on the canvases, but the random and abstract beauty. If that manifests as feminine, many times, it’s the proof of the fact the feminine is beautiful. Also, Allah has no gender. He is neither male nor female. According to an Islamic saying, Allah is beautiful and he loves beauty, so a feminine colour palette in this series is relevant. I just follow my inspirations without my ego dictating my choices. Rumi says, “Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”
6.Your last body of work was on spiritual poet and philosopher Rumi, noticing that both your series have deep rooted inspiration from spirituality, how has that affected your growth as a painter and a human being?
The words of Rumi have been my guiding light since forever, I think. He was a spiritualist, poet, thinker, and a lover. He inspires me in a very unique way. When I am looking for any answers, I turn to him and I start to go through my collection of favourite verses by him. Most often, I see a new dimension of realisation, relevant to my thoughts. It’s like a conversation and his words are poignant and profound, which provide me with a direction and validation of my choices.
His single verse “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment,” is a liberator from the prison of intellect. And another, “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” Is an inspiration to be fearless and let go of the ego. I consider myself as a work in progress and have barely started to grow. Everyday, brings new opportunities disguised as problems, both as painter and a human being. Everyday, I try to discover, like Rumi says “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
7. Since painters are always learning and inspiring as creativity has no limits, what would be your inspiring words to our KM readers regarding life and faith?
I feel all of us need to be connected with our own hearts, in a deeper and more introspective way, for there lies all the answers to the troubles we experience. Again to quote Rumi: “There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.You feel it, don’t you?”