As Heitham Adjina presents his first solo exhibition in the region, a&e catches up with the artist to find out how he is bridging the gap between art and architecture.
For his first solo exhibition in The Middle East, British-Iraqi artist Heitham Adjina travels to Dubai to present Architecture of Being, a collection of over thirty canvases from various moments during Adjina’s career that reveals the delicate way in which he combines the worlds of architecture and art.
An Architect by career, through his artworks Adjina couples the structures that make up our world with individual emotional and philosophical inquiry.
He uses a philosophical approach to create works that analyse the wonders of time, place and humanity.
Adjina has had a career as an architect that spans over forty years. Splitting his time between Dubai, London, Kuwait and Baghdad he is the creator behind some of the most iconic architectural structures in The Middle East. Adjina has collaborated with architects including Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, for which he worked on The Opus building in Dubai.
As an artist, Adjina combines the structures that inhabit our world with the more subjective meanderings of human consciousness. While studying architecture the Adjina has always been heavily influenced by art and believes the two come hand in hand. As his first solo exhibition debuts in Dubai, we talk to Adjina on his inspiration and the challenges he faces as an artist.
What can you tell us about the exhibition you are presenting in Dubai?
It is an exhibition of a selection of paintings that were done over the last two decades. They were not supposed to present a consistent theme of style or thought, but more a process of modes of thinking at certain periods of time. They include some fairly strict abstract formulation, while others embody relationships in life and of life. I didn’t expect that it would be a stylistic exhibition but something to show the viewer various approaches and paintings.
The reaction on the opening night was very pleasing and I felt that both the abstract and emotional paintings were very well received and the reactions of the attendees were very positive.
Why did you choose Dubai for this exhibition?
I had been urged to exhibit by gallerists and private collectors, and in a way, I was reluctant for many years, but I believe we found the right venue and the right time. Art Week is a major event in the region, and it felt like the right moment. Over the past few years in Dubai, I have been immersed with building my architectural practice.
You began your career as an architect what led you to the art world?
I have a vivid memory of drawing at the age of eight at primary school. We had a drawing class and I began to draw images from my imagination – palm trees and a river. The teacher came to my desk and commended my work, and even brought in another teacher to have a look. That was the very beginning of finding myself, and my love for drawing.
Within the same year, I started seriously drawing and painting and was fortunate enough that my family allowed me to have a dedicated ‘drawing’ room in our house to take on my new passion and hobby, where I would find and lose myself at the same time.
I used to draw and paint with charcoal, pastel and wall-paints at the time – as a substitute to oil paints. I used to copy images from artists and magazines – my first memories were of me copying Van Gogh’s cypress trees and Cezanne’s gamblers, and pictures of celebrities and film stars.
This passion continued throughout my childhood, but it was only when I moved to London at the age of 17 that I was really exposed to ‘art’ – through exhibitions and art classes at A-level – and thereafter I decided to study architecture.
During those years I was very much interested in art and sculpture and visited museums and exhibitions frequently. Actually, my studies in the first two years of architecture supported my interest in discovering more about art and sculpture. They have always gone hand in hand for me.
How do you think the two industries are linked?
For me personally, you cannot separate one from the other. They are intrinsically linked and one has always influenced the other in my design and thought process. Architecture is a combination of 70% fact, and 30% creativity. As opposed to paintings, which are 100% creativity. Architecture influences people and affects our way of life; while painting enhances the visual, emotional, and perhaps the intellectual feelings of a viewer.
Is there a particular piece of art that has inspired you?
There is no specific piece of art or artist that has particularly inspired me. It is a collective residue, or result, of following paintings and painters. It is a fact that – consciously or sub-consciously – these painters and paintings do have an effect on a person, but for me, it cannot be attributed to a specific painter or painting.
What would you say is your biggest challenge today as an artist?
Creativity is a challenge. To try and create something that has inner feelings is more challenging than to do paintings that are visually, aesthetically pleasing, but do not require the involvement of the viewer. The real challenge for me is to actually translate thoughts and emotions onto a canvas.
What would you like to achieve with your creations?
I would very much like to see the viewer feel involved in the content of the painting.
Where do you go when you want to concentrate on your paintings?
I work out of my studio in my home in Dubai.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in the Middle East and the UAE in particular?
I believe the UAE is the vanguard of promotion and development of the art and culture scene in The Middle East. It is developing talents and helping towards a collective understanding of the importance of art. I had a lot of specific interest in the artwork of the Emirates, Egyptian and Iraqi artists. Needless to say, artists of Syria and Lebanon have produced exceptional work.
Architecture of Being is now showing at Showcase Gallery, Al Serkal Avenue until May 9th.