Rashid Al Mulla taught himself to paint alongside his regular job as an engineer.
While art has always been a hobby, he started his career in art at Sharjah Art Institute in 1998, where he took different art classes ranging from sketching, oil painting, acrylic painting, to sculpture. He has exhibited in several galleries and events around the UAE and was commissioned to create a 140-metre-long mural alongside other artists by the Cultural Office of Sheikha Manal Bint Mohammad Al Maktoum. While his artwork is his passion, Al Mulla balances this with a full-time job as an engineer, so this year has seen him be able to spend more time focusing on his art and subsequently led to his latest solo exhibition “I Have So Much To Tell You” which is currently taking place at COYA Dubai.
As someone who is passionate about humanity and the environment, most of his works — acrylic paintings on canvas — focus on delivering human emotions and shedding light on issues such as water scarcity, deforestation and animal cruelty. Each artwork dives into the different stories of culture and emotions of humans, specifically women, and how their simple facial expressions can convey a message to the viewer. We find out more about the latest exhibition and discover why Al Mulla was inspired to paint by his Emirati heritage.
What inspired you to pursue a career as an artist?
I’ve been drawing since I was a child. I can’t remember exactly how it started but I knew that I always wanted to continue in this field. Creating art always gave me a chance to express myself and for me it is a kind of meditation and a way to escape from the world.
You are self-taught – have you always been creative and what is your first memory of art growing up?
When I was very young, I remember that two of my brothers used to draw. I would either copy what they were doing or I would copy characters from comic books or cartoons. My Eighth Grade school teacher pushed me to stick with art and gave me the chance to participate in many art events in and out of school. My work would get selected to be hung on the wall of the classroom and that always gave me a sense of achievement.
This has been a year of many challenges – what is the biggest challenge you have faced, and have you still been inspired to be creative?
To be honest, regardless of not being able to travel or participate in or attend art exhibitions, this year was good for me. I have a day job as an engineer which consumes most of my time usually so the pandemic gave me the chance to spend more time at home focusing on my art, reflecting on my past work and seeing what I need to keep, change or improve.
What is the message you aim to share with your paintings?
I always aim to tell a story or deliver a deeper message through my paintings. I study human emotions and provide insight into people’s lives through their eyes and facial expressions.
What inspired the direction of your artworks?
I loved impressionism at school and it always influenced my art. Lately, I changed to a more contemporary portrait painting style that combines impressionism with abstract art. I also like experimenting with colours which led me to create more colourful pieces.
What can you tell us about your latest exhibition at COYA Dubai and the pieces you are displaying there?
There is something about people that intrigue and interest me. Perhaps their background or hidden stories that are often only told by their eyes and facial expressions. My portraits are mostly of women from different cultures and diverse backgrounds who each have their own stories to tell. Stories that quite so often they couldn’t share because of fear or cultural constraints.
You cover many relevant issues in your artwork – why is it important for you to raise awareness on these subjects?
Besides exploring human emotions, I also direct people’s attention towards the environment. We live in a time where the environment is at risk every day and awareness is so important. We all need to come together to work towards protecting it. This is one message that I focus on and something that I address in my work and this is something that I know is also important to COYA.
In this issue we celebrate UAE National Day – what does this occasion mean to you?
Being an Emirati artist it means a lot to me, it is difficult to describe the feeling, but having this sense of unity and seeing how it is celebrated all across the UAE, reminds me of how we are united. It is a blessing and I appreciate it, not only on this occasion but every day.
How does your UAE heritage inspire you to succeed?
If we look into the UAE heritage from an art perspective, it is very inspiring to paint or draw the country’s heritage. I started as an artist painting the UAE seascape and landscape. I’m a huge fan of the ocean and I was inspired a lot by the UAE heritage and this what made me excel in my art career when I first started.
What is the period of art that inspires you?
It is and always will be the impressionism period.
What is something you would like to see happen to support the UAE’s art scene?
We need more facilities for artists that will allow us to rent studios at reasonable prices.
What is your dream or vision for your artwork?
I would love to have the chance to produce large scale art and dive deeper into environmental art.
What can we expect to see from you in 2021?
I’m aiming to go big with my artwork and I intend to focus more closely on my new style. In 2021, my artworks will be more focused on narrative and storytelling. I will not say anymore as I rather keep the rest for myself for now!
As a self-taught artist – what advice would you give to others who want to explore their artistic abilities?
Many people didn’t have the chance to study art in an academic sense but if you a passion for it, whether you study it or not, you can always find ways to practice and improve your art. You only need patience and dedication.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
It is never too late to chase your dreams.
Rashid Al Mulla’s exhibition “I Have So Much To Tell You” will run at COYA Dubai until the end of the year. For table reservations or more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.coyarestaurant.com/dubai or call 04 316 9600.