Amira Rahim | Colour Poet

The power of social media. Its fateful connections brought me to Amira Rahim’s Instagram page, where I discovered colorful abstract worlds. Their creator planned to be an attorney after attending the University of Pittsburg, but time spent traveling around Europe and her developing interest in sociology, culture and travel decided otherwise.  No matter the shifts in her career path, Newark-born Amira has always been an artist, creating since the age of 13.
Now based in Abu Dhabi for over a year, she tells me about her beginnings, her passions and her latest work.

What is your earliest memory of art?
I remember making art at a very young age. I would draw houses a lot, as well as imitate illustrations I’d seen in my children’s books. My earliest memory would have to be when my mom signed me up for a children’s art class at the Newark Museum in Newark, NJ, my hometown. I remember the instructor had us sketch an egg. I mean, we were five or six years old, rendering shadows, and I succeeded in the task. I still remember how proud I felt when the teacher praised about my finished drawing to my mom.

Can you remember your first creation?
I think my first serious piece of art was when I was 13. I landed my first job as part of a community art project commissioned by the city of Montclair. I’d take two buses across town to Montclair High School in the summer, where a group of young artists and myself designed and constructed our individual mosaic benches that were then installed in a local park.

Your art is very colorful. How do you select your palette?
My color palette is a combination of intuition and emotion. Many colors end up in my work intuitively. But some pieces are a bit more calculated depending on how I respond emotionally to color at that time.
When I need a dose of sunshine and cheer, I use a lot of red, orange, and yellow in my work. When I’m a bit more somber or serious, I lean toward my favorite, Prussian blue, and other dark colors.

Happy not Hippy

What made you choose the abstract path?
It’s an interesting question because it’s the last route I thought I’d take in my art. I always tried to create work that looked as realistic as possible. While building my portfolio in Abu Dhabi, however, I began to change course. I was finding it harder to see the beauty in this foreign land and missed the many things in nature I took for granted back home in New Jersey. The only way to compensate for this void was with color.
I started experimenting first with just abstract landscapes, and then something happened. It’s like a spark was ignited and I needed to paint immediately when I woke up and all throughout the day. I couldn’t wait to try new color combinations and compositions. I was no longer confined to merely painting what I saw in front of me or in a photograph. I could create the beauty that I desperately needed in my life. I haven’t looked back since.
This style of intuitive painting as seen in “Push and Pull” is a very freeing art- making process for me because it is almost always abstract, and cuts out the noise of interpretation between my art and the viewer. It’s raw, primitive, and maybe a bit naive. That’s what makes it so interesting.

My first look at “Push and Pull”, your work on paper, makes me think of a Rorschach test, and I find this exploration of subconscious your art initiates very interesting. Can you tell me more about this piece?
“Push and Pull” is a piece I created during a period of experimentation and a sort of opening up of my inner spirit. It is the result of working subconsciously without any preconceived end or goal. The result is this beautiful chaos, visual poetry on paper.
Art is an incredibly vulnerable and personal process. Many times, artists have a vision of a landscape, a portrait, or a still life, and we pour so much of ourselves into that piece, and the viewer may never see the whole process behind it.

Push and Pull

Traveling is another of your passions. How does it influence your creative process?
I’ve traveled to over 12 countries by the time I was 25, and I am hoping for at least another 12 more. The thing I love about traveling, is that if you do it right, you forget yourself. You absorb the culture, a new rhythm, and the spirit of the people around you.

This stripping away, and rebuilding is something I relish in my creative process. Allowing a piece of art to take on a life of its own, to step out of its way and just observe its actualization, is what I strive for. It’s easier said than done, however. Picasso is quoted as saying “It took four years to paint like Raphael, and a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Traveling I think keeps us young, and therefore, creative.

In your artist statement, you mention your interest in the effects of color on
human psyche. Can you tell me more about this?
Absolutely. I am primarily interested in color and combinations of color in my work. This is most effectively achieved in abstract painting, but it can also be used in representational art.
I am always pleased when people comment on my paintings with statements that start with “This makes me feel...”. Art should make you feel something and if you’re so bogged down with trying to capture every detail, you can lose the essence of the entire piece. The complete opposite of this is abstract art, and by infusing color into my abstract pieces, I am having a conversation with every person who sees my work.

It’s a very serious, intense process. I think we look at pretty colors in an abstract painting and sometimes dismiss it, but often times, even those soft pieces, the delicate arrangement of an artist’s hand, is pure genius, be it planned or not.

Heat Wave

What do you think of the art market in the UAE, compared to your previous experiences in other countries?
I started selling my art and marketing online officially about 8 months ago. Since then, I’ve learned not to underestimate the UAE population for potential art enthusiasts.
My art is very colorful and leans more toward the abstract, and people here have been really responsive. My plan now is to keep making the art that I love and trust that my fans will continue to support me.

What are you working on now? Are you planning on showing your art in the UAE?
Now is a very exciting time for me in my art. I’m working on a series of colorful camel portraits. They are almost biographical because each camel has its own personality. Outside of this, I am developing my skills as an abstract artist by testing new color schemes, compositional elements, and techniques.
I recently had a solo art show at a private residence on Reem Island and the turnout was great. My main goals in the next few months include getting my art in front of galleries and interior designers interested in garnishing quality abstract art and installations for home and office. This would give me the creative freedom to really develop as a contemporary abstract artist in the Middle East.

Co - posted on The National art blog

Photo credit
Images courtesy of Amira Rahim