Blank Canvas: Emerging Female Artists From The Middle East

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / Mar 22 2019 / 16:40 PM

Through their paintings, sketchings and murals each of these emerging artists has their own story to tell. But no matter what the creative process, the Middle East provides a clean slate on which to make their mark on the world

Blank Canvas: Emerging Female Artists From The Middle East
Norbert Kniat

Chafa wears: Dress, Dhs1,700, Rixo London at Ounass. Shoes, her own


32, Lebanese/French, visual artist, painter and muralist

“Growing up, my home was surrounded by stunning, inspirational landscapes, which helped me to discover a love for playing with different materials and working with my hands – both major aspects of my work. I have two forms, one is focused on contemporary art and the other is about bespoke surface finishing and wall painting. I have so many artistic influences, but currently I would say English painter David Hockney and American-French artist Louise Bourgeois, plus cave art generally helps to shape my thinking, too. For my murals I have developed a lot of textures, intricate finishings and patterns – I would love to see these adapted to textile form. Whilst I don’t see a direct link between my sense of style and my work, when it comes to clothes I like interesting fabrics with intricate detailing and these are things that help to influence the textures in my art. I am the kind of artist who wants my work to be accessible. I am not expecting everyone to understand it, but I want it to move people even if they’re not from the art world."

Khawla wears: Abaya, Dhs1,650, NAFS. Dress (underneath), Dhs2,265, Layeur at The Modist. Shoes, her own


32, Emirati, visual artist

“The purpose of my work is to raise awareness of heart disease, as I lost my brother suddenly – when he was just 17 – and my father two years later, both to cardiac-related issues. I subconsciously started featuring detailed, anatomically correct hearts in my work, which my teacher noticed and suggested I start a series. I was then selected to show my artwork at a student exhibition at the La Biennale di Venezia in 2009 – it was the first year the UAE had exhibited. Yayoi Kusama inspires me – she’s been through hardship in her life. I want to be a famous artist and to sell my art internationally, but my ultimate goal is to save lives through my work, and if I can do that, that is fulfilling. The GCC is a relatively new market in the art world and not everyone understands my need to be an artist, or likes my work. But for me, my art is successful if it sparks debate.”

Saeedeh wears: Dress, Dhs2,350, Romance Was Born at Ounass. Shoes, Dgs3,900, Christian Louboutin


33, Persian, modern calligraphy visual artist

“Initially I wanted to be a lawyer, like my father, but he saw something else in me and, after just a year of studying law in France, he suggested I move onto a fine art and interior design course. Then, whilst I was living abroad, I received some beautiful Persian books from him and was mesmerised by the incredible words. My work grew organically from there to reflect my passion for literature and poetry. As well as the inspiration I take from reading Persian poetry and Middle Eastern texts, I also find that classical music, travelling and people I meet in my everyday life help to form my creative vision. The outfits I choose to wear change how I feel, and that in turn has a direct impact on what I produce on a particular day. I have often thought about turning my work, which is very romantic, into textile form, and that may well be next on my agenda – that, and I would love to see my art incorporated into interior design and architectural projects. One of my major goals would be to create a boutique hotel inspired by poetry, design and art – that is my big dream. Ultimately though, I feel that my main job as an artist is to change how people feel and for my creations to have a positive effect on their lives.”

Maitha wears: Top and trouser set, Dhs1,200, Rhode Resort at Ounass. Shoes, her own


29, Emirati, visual artist

“When I was little, my mum would proudly show all my relatives my scribbles and paintings and tell them that I was destined to be an artist. That really motivated me, and I didn’t see myself doing anything else. I’m lucky, because my parents have always encouraged me to follow my passion. My style is all about vintage boutiques and bright colours –something that is emulated in my work, which is inspired by memories and by my childhood. When I’m at the studio and get paint on my clothes, which doesn’t wash out, I still wear them, the stains evoke vivid memories, which is the basis of the art I produce. Everyone with a talent has to have something that gives them the inspiration to do what they do, to be able to get across their personality in their work. One of my university teachers gave me a list of artists to study, one of which was Paula Rego, a Portuguese visual artist. She works from memories too, and to see someone who was doing something similar somewhere else pushed me to make my work even more personal, to not be afraid of showing my deepest emotions. My work is essentially a visual diary – it’s hard to open all that up and put it in front of people, there is nowhere to hide and it exposes you. My husband is a filmmaker and he introduced me to art house films, which also inspire my work. So what’s next for me? I want to do my Master of Fine Arts next year – hopefully at Slade in London.” 

Lead image: From left. Chafa Ghaddar wears: Dress, Dhs9,180, Rosie Assouline at Harvey Nichols - Dubai. Shoes, her own. Maitha Abdalla wears: Shirt, Dhs1,350, Palmer Harding at Harvey Nichols - Dubai. Skirt, Dhs1,625, Marques Almeida at Boutique 1. Shoes, her own. Khawla Darwish wears: Abaya with trousers, Dhs1,750, NAFS. Dress, Dhs1,550, Stine Goya at Ounass. Shoes, Dhs3,655, Christian Louboutin. Saeedeh Keshvari wears: Top, Dhs6,850 and trousers, Dhs4,500, both Gucci at Ounass, Shoes, Dhs2,500, Stuart Weitzman

Prices approximate.

Styling: Tabitha Glaysher
Hair: Leanne Matthews
Photography: Norbert Kniat
Make-up: Katie Cousins at MMG Artists
Fashion assistant: Nazanin Jahani
Art director assistant: Idil Gurkan Koseoglu

From the March 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

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