Two of the exhibitors at the Mussawir’s latest exhibition discuss their work with Peter Feely.
Your work appears to have a rhythmic, musical flow – is that something you would agree with and is it something you’re conscious of when you’re painting?
Yes, I agree - I listen to Qawalli [Sufi devotional music] by a great singer from Pakistan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, while I work. I don’t think it’s intentional or conscious – maybe it just happens automatically due to my environment affecting my mood.
There is also an element of drama to your paintings, is that intentional?
I think that paintings reveal an artist’s personality, a bit like how a poem demonstrates and reflects the personal experiences of the poet. The drama is in my work because I am not only inspired by other paintings but also by nature and everything that happens around me. You can see inspiration as tangible and non-tangible or visible or invisible. Inspiration can come from anywhere – Sufism, sunrises, the landscape – it’s often unconscious.
Does your profession as a graphic designer influence your ability to make aesthetically cohesive paintings, especially in terms of colour?
Yes, very strongly. I used to design Islamic calendars using computers – I brought that sense of balance and colour to my artwork.
Is there a difference between painting and design?
There is no difference – the only difference is the medium you choose to use.
Do you have a vision or a dream of how you think a particular piece will look or does it evolve as you work?
No, I just have a think then start because artwork should evolve. You simply have to understand the language of painting – artists often say that a painting speaks to them during the process of creation.
Do you think it’s important that the people looking at your paintings understand your heritage and traditions? (including the significance of your father).
It shouldn’t have to be important but I’m happy when people do understand [the background to my work]. I think my art should look like it’s been made specifically for the environment it’s being displayed in – if it’s in a contemporary, modern place, then some elements should suit that – the same if it’s in a traditional space, then I should adhere to traditional style and rules. I think that the fact that both Muslims and non-Muslims are interested in my paintings of the Quranic verses is my biggest achievement. I include my father’s name in my work as it’s what I was taught by my Murshad [Sufi teacher].
Can you explain the significance of nukta [marks that represent sounds from other languages] to your work.
There are lot of words which lose their essence without a nukta. Sometimes not using it gives us different meaning as well.
I can see embossing, drawing and paper cutting in your artworks – are there any other mediums you use?
Yes I also use silver leaf for its reflective qualities and purity.
How does colour play a role in your pieces – in comparison to other calligraphy art do you think that your work is more restrained?
I am inspired by the minimalism of modern art and I try to achieve the same thing in my work – minimising the elements that divert people’s attention by using limited colours.
How much of your own personality is reflected in your artwork?
Being a Muslim I think that my work reflects my own personality – I repeat the word ‘Allah’ in my work which reflects how my beliefs are constantly in my mind and soul.
Your work seems quite precise – would you agree with that?
One of my inspirations is miniature Mughal paintings.
Is Islam the main inspiration for your work or are you inspired by lots of things, like graphic design?
Islam is my main inspiration, but I’m also inspired by the Arabic language. I use the Arabic alphabets in my art work as it’s the chosen language for all Muslims to pray in. I am also inspired by graphic design and minimalism.
Exhibition: ‘Captivating Calligraphy’ until August 20 at Art Couture and Mussawir Gallery, Al Badia Golf Club, Intercontinental Dubai Festival City, Festival City (04 7012 1127).
Artists: Ahmed Khan, Bin Qullander, Noreen Akhtar, Arif Khan
Price range on works: on request