A work by Afshan Quraishi.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Afshan Quraishi is a contemporary painter who lives and works in United Arab Emirates. She belongs to the aristocratic family of Kurnool, a pre-independence princely state in Andhra Pradesh, India. She has a signature style, which is a combination of realism with classical overtones, aligned with contemporary art. She works mostly in oils with fine brush strokes, but is also adept in other media. She would like to present joy and peace and cultural values through her art. “It is important to express one self, provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experiences,” she says. “My work is autobiographical in that sense.”
A seasoned visual artist who was bestowed with a Golden Visa in the creative field by the UAE government, she envisages her position as ‘An artist with a purpose’. She also uses her art practice to give back to society by participating in art auctions, charities and working with children of determination and mental health and fertility centres in the UAE. Quraishi’s artworks have been shown in India, UAE, U.K, Lebanon, France, Mauritius and Africa. She was on the jury of Ras Al Khaimah Arts Festival for three consecutive years, and is a recipient of multiple art awards. She has received the Leonardo da Vinci Artist Award (2018), Nirmaan judges choice awards (2019), VOSAP artist award for country representation (2020), Arab Cultural Art Award for contributions to empowering women artists (2017) and the Clyde & Co. Art Award (2020). Her work enjoys permanent representation at Haegeumgang Theme Museum, Korea (since 2021). Afshan Quraishi speaks to Gulf Today
Have you had formal art training?
Technically speaking, my art training started at home at an early age. I was very fortunate to be mentored by a master of fine arts, Azeez Azmi, in my home town, Kurnool. He taught me the nuances of fine art - starting from fundamentals to complex creative concepts. I strongly feel that learning this skill is a life-long process which requires dedication and discipline. Becoming an artist cannot be rushed. Artists ripen, they bloom. They develop over time.
What are the subjects you paint and why do you choose them? I am a figurative artist. I fashion art as visual poetry that is aesthetically captivating. I strongly feel that my paintings are about the pleasure of seeing myself exploring and embracing the beauty that surrounds me. My paintings are about flights of fantasy and snapshots of reality. Art is a strong medium of how I share my thoughts and ideas. I want to lead my viewer to a sacred abode of peace and tranquility.
Can you be identified with any school of art?
Being a contemporary artist, my art form is a fusion between classical fine arts with a touch of realism and modern techniques. There is a lot of emphasis on the natural world and I like to celebrate the human form and find beauty in both form and texture.
Capturing the light that illuminates the skin tone is everything to me. Its elusive quality can transform a figure, in a matter of seconds. I try to capture that fleeting moment to preserve the magic on a beautiful form.
How has the UAE influenced you as an artist?
From world class museums, galleries, exhibitions and festivals, to creative spaces for artists, the UAE has a lot to offer. The issuance of the Golden Visa for creatives by the UAE leadership is like the icing on the cake. It has given a chance to artists to invest long term in the creative infrastructure of the country as well.
What is the role of Nature in your work?
I draw inspiration from Nature. The flowers and leaves have such symbolic expressions in art! Perhaps this is the reason why my practice draws elements of Nature. Or maybe this is due to my desire for a peaceful co-existence with Nature. I try to invite my viewers into a space of harmony with Nature …
Who are the artists who have inspired you? Why do they do so?
I’m largely influenced by the renowned Indian artists Raja Ravi Varma and S.H.Raza. Their works are best examples of the combination of European academic art and Indian sensibility. I’m also impressed by the Emirati artists Fatima Lootah and Abdul Qader Al Rais, for their innovative styles of work. I am also influenced by the works of Rembrandt and Henry Reuben, for their spatial interpretation and the use of light and dark spaces in their portraits.
If you were only an art teacher, what are the values you would teach?
Art education imparts valuable skills that will serve students in their lives and careers such as observation, problem-solving, innovation and critical thinking. Participation in arts can also improve communication skills and thus generate self-esteem. Arts teach collaboration and increases confidence. As an art teacher, I’ll be responsible for developing in each student an interest and ability in these life skills.
How can the media — including social media — promote art and artists?
All kinds of media can play pivotal roles in the promotion of artists and their art. They give them visibility by involving large audiences. The media helps artists show their portfolios. Thanks to social media, it is easy for people to look at an artist’s style and background, and follow him. This can lead to a positive impact on the growth of an artist.
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