Al Hadi (The Guide), one of the paintings by Al Noor.
The painting exhibition of Art Noor during Ramadan reinforces the strong bond that UAE has with traditions and culture. This year, Noor has two exhibitions running simultaneously — Alive99 at Dubai Mall and Sublime99 at Dubai Marina Mall, in addition to his brand new LED show at Burj Khalifa.
On display are 133 latest paintings of the 99 Names of Allah — a subject that he is widely known and acclaimed for. He has done 11 solo exhibitions on this subject during the past 16 years, after his first solo exhibition was organised by Directorate of Art, Sharjah, in 2004, and drew a lot of attention.
What makes him sustain the dedication on the 99 names for more than 15 years, is a subject Panorama sets out to explore.
(Aslam) Art Noor
How has the transition been from an advertising professional to a full-time artist?
It is all about motivation. If one is passionate about something and is willing to make sacrifices to pursue that, then hard work becomes bearable. I paint because I love to paint, and I give a 100 per cent to it. It was difficult in the beginning and I missed all the perks, but once I started to enjoy simpler things of life and painting, it turned out to be a great swap.
So where does the motivation come from?
My main motivation is to see an artwork taking birth from nothing; then acquiring a life and mind of its own. It's an amazing experience for me because I do not have any predetermined set of parameters to confine that artwork within. The spiritual subject like the 99 Names requires meditative and contemplative zone. That’s why I work in absolute silence, usually starting early in the morning. And once I get going, it keeps flowing.
What is your preferred pattern of work?
I have at least three patterns which I keep alternating depending on the weather, need or my feeling. The first one is the Early Bird. It begins at 4am and ends at 4pm. The second is the Night Owl — it begins at 5pm and ends at 4am. The third one is more like Scattered Bursts — which has no fixed time and begins anytime and doesn't end for days. I don't organise my activities. I let them organise me.
Al Rahman -- The Beneficent
What kind of mediums do you use?
In spite of my love for oils, because of the quality of pigments and its classical feel, like most artists I end up using acrylics more often. They are fast drying and one can do many layers in a single day. While with oils one has wait for weeks. I also have been making my own version of acrylics with many additives to create texture and body. For some of my work I also use many unconventional mediums like sand, coal, along with other compounds. Sometimes I use compressed air to spray paint.
What have your paintings taught you?
One of the great lessons painting can teach you is not to be afraid of making mistakes. Every mistake is a doorway which leads to some discovery. Every flawed attempt gets one closer to the desired outcome. This realisation really helps me every day. I strive for excellence but not perfection. We all make mistakes, dozens of them. The trick lies in finding the opportunity in that debacle.
Are there any more subjects other than the 99 Names of Allah that you have done?
Ruminiscence was a series based on Maulana Jalal Uddin Rumi's verses of love, which I started in 2014 and had an exhibition in 2016 with 50 or so paintings on that subject. I have done some more work on that subject and would love to exhibit some more of these later this year. I have started work on smaller scale works and will have them ready in the coming months.
How good are current times for young and evolving artists?
Young artists are living in great times. With social media at their tips and millions of free learning resources online, they can do, and achieve whatever discipline takes their fancy with more ease than ever. For those in UAE, it’s a promising time ahead because I think this country will emerge as a unique and multicultural art capital of the region.
Do you meticulously plan for the future or prefer to go with the flow?
I believe in living in the moment and don't think too much about the future. But for sure, I want to work on an international show, which will go to dozen or so countries. I am working on a new book too, which is expected to be ready by the year end. Let's see how the life unfolds; in Arabic there's a beautiful term describing this attitude — ‘Maktoob.’ It means — 'it’s written.’
Art is the only way to express my inner feelings like joy, peace, positivity and spread the message of happiness around me. Through paintings, I express my ideas and the result reflects through a range of artworks.
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