Rising artist Hesham Malik’s new show is an heady exploration of colour and culture.
An artist’s journey is seldom straightforward. Does it begin when the paintbrush is first picked up? Or is that the final step in a journey that began with a moment of inspiration long before that has germinated in the creator’s mind? Or perhaps the journey for an artist really begins when the painting is finished and the viewer makes their own interpretation.
Quite where the journey begins is not clear, but for Bahrain-born painter Hesham Malik one thing is evident – it is a calling he has followed from an early age. ‘I have been painting as long as I remember. As time passed, despite not knowing much about art, I kept experimenting,’ explains Malik. ‘I believe an artist becomes intimately acquainted with strong concepts and artistic techniques through experimentation.’ This experimentation and a willingness to explore the depths of his consciousness have taken Malik to places he never imagined.
Whether it is creatively, critically, or even commercially, he continues to justify the often-used label of a ‘leading artist of his generation’. With media reports suggesting an original art piece selling for more than $1m (Dhs3.6m) and a collector following among Qatari and New York-based art enthusiasts it would be easy to believe the journey has reached a comfortable destination.
‘Art is 20 percent about talent and 80 percent about hard work. I know how I am viewed and it brings a lot of responsibility for me,’ says Malik. ‘The truth is that an artist always paints for themselves, for their pleasure and fulfilling their inner hunger. I can say that collectors have high expectations and they challenge me. But I paint because I feel like painting, not because others make me paint.’
This freedom has led to the work behind a new exhibition at the Alliance Française Gallery this month. Titled ‘Mon Amour’ it is, in Malik’s own words ‘a collection of memories stored in me over the years’ and ‘an attempt to elevate human imagination, expression, visualisation and to connect with a blend of colours’.
The result is an exhibition of 25 paintings, created out of the disorder and chaos of Malik’s studio that are abstract, surrealist and figurative.
The love in the exhibition name refers to a love of, and a willingness to, embrace, different cultures and traditions. The art takes viewers on a journey through Iranian calligraphy as well as Nepali, Indian, American and European themes.
‘I had one core idea “the love of culture” and these are the topics in my mind,’ says Malik. The contrasting styles, the abstract nature of the paintings, a complex message behind each artwork – it would be easy to be daunted by an exhibition of this calibre. Yet Malik pairs each painting, mainly oil and acrylic on canvas, with a respective text by the artist. The visitor can observe the painting while getting a feel of the artwork from his own perspective. The reason is ‘not to push my interpretation on somebody, but rather to create a dialogue,’ explains Malik. ‘I want people to look for themselves, to think what emotions and ideas the painting has evoked. Did we meet or do we have different views’?
This, perhaps, is the real journey of an artist. The work is a vessel to transport the viewer. Regardless of each individual’s experience and interpretation of the work it can be appreciated on a merely visual level. ‘You can be visually satisfied from your own movement inside, whatever your mind tells you or what your heart tells you. You can skip the description and still have pleasure from the art.’
Exhibition: ‘Mon Armour’, until June 5, Alliance Française, Oud Metha (04 335 8712)
Artist: Hesham Malik