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HOME LOCAL MIDEAST ASIA WORLD BUSINESS SPORT OPINION WRITERS
Fragrance of Faith
by Muhammad Yusuf February 25, 2016
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Mar. 5 sees the opening of an art exhibition titled ‘Light & Love in the 99 Names of Allah’ by Noor, or Art Noor, as he is also known. Consisting of 33 abstract expressionistic works inspired by the 99 Names of Allah, it will be held until Apr. 16 at Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, organised by MONDA Gallery, Dubai. Art Noor is a well-known Indian artist and author based in Sharjah.

Of Muslim faith and originating from the advertising world, Art Noor broke away from his highly successful corporate career in advertising in 2002 to dedicate his time to art, and more particularly, to all topics related to the Creator, and Love.

After two intense years of practice, he held his first solo exhibition in 2004, followed by two more exhibitions in 2008 and 2009. He continued working on the subject of the ‘99 Names of Allah’, which culminated with the publication of his book on the subject and an extensive solo exhibition at the World Trade Centre, Abu Dhabi, in 2013.

At the beginning of 2015, he held another exhibition called ‘Ruminiscence’ at Z Gallery, Four Points by Sheraton, Dubai, introducing a new series of works based on the love poetry of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. His latest works - both from the ‘99 Names of Allah’ and the ‘Ruminiscence’ series - will be exhibited in his upcoming exhibition.

MONDA Gallery owner Etienne van den Peereboom, says: “It is a great pleasure and honour to organise this exhibition with Art Noor, at a time where his work from the past 14 years reaches incredible significance amidst current international developments, and at the same time offers non-Muslim residents of the UAE an easy and fascinating entry point to the Muslim faith. His artworks are universal and captivating in many ways”.

Though undoubtedly inspired by the calligraphic constructions of the Names of Allah, Art Noor decided he would honour them through the spirit of abstract expressionism or “lyrical abstraction”. His reason: the Creator is unexplainable and can only be discerned.

“Spontaneity and movement is what drives my work”, he says, “and it usually evolves into something meaningful with the inspiration of the moment. Many times in the past my work has been interpreted as emotionally charged melodies.

“I love improvising at the moment, and do not follow the deterministic school of painting. I usually begin with anything - a line, a dot, a stain - or something experimental, like…how about mixing coal with white paint?  How about using compressed air instead of brushes? Or some object that I found lying around and I decide to use it for making the texture…But when I do it – I might like it or not. Depending on the outcome, I keep taking next steps and the work keeps evolving. So it is usually a process of discovery for me as well”.

He experiments with various styles and techniques and uses, for example, both wash and hard brushstrokes. But the spiritual dimensions of his work are self-evident, whatever the medium or technique. His works are also noted for bold strokes and energy, fused with colour harmonies.

Art Noor has discovered that colour and vivacity, key features of modern abstraction, when coupled with arresting elements of Arabic calligraphy, can give rise to images which radiate raw movement and dynamism. He fuses modern expressionistic abstraction with calligraphic forms to create aesthetic imagery of the divine.

Inspired by traditional calligraphic shapes of the divine Names, he builds contemporary interpretations on canvas, with layer upon layer of acrylic, oil, ink and metallic pigments.

One can see many genres of art – calligraphy, pop, figurative, and abstract, among others – in his work. Sometimes, in the heat of passion, as in ‘Ruminiscence’, he makes his creations dance like dervishes. You could call them performance art in still life.

He has the ability to condense immense subjects like ‘Nothingness’, ‘Love’, ‘The Prism of the World’ (Ruminiscence) into a few metres, feet or inches. Of course, he is still a Seeker. Even after many rigorous years of work and meditation, he is still on his Journey. This humility is a shining aspect of his work, as it is of his person.

He made his first oil painting at the age of 10, a 3 x 3 feet work on wooden board which almost took him two months to complete during summer holidays. It was inspired by an abstract painting he had seen of the cubist period and was called ‘The King and her Maids’.

Following post graduate studies in communication and design, he worked for 20 years in advertising, all the while pursuing his creative passions, namely, photography, films, writing, and art. It was in 2003 he started painting full time, in the UAE. Two years later, he started selling his art and set up a studio for himself in Sharjah International Airport Free Zone.

Many – if not most – artists speak about their art. But how many do you find who talk about their studios? Art Noor is one who does that. His studio is as dear to him as a golf club to an avid golfer. 

“This studio”, Art Noor says about his work space, “began its life in a room in a flat with a window overlooking the Strait of Hormuz, in the Arabian Gulf, and has been on a precarious edge for many years. But as though it had a life and destiny of its own, it has held on to witness some landmark works and be an active participant and a host to some interesting friends who have been actively involved with its existence and growth”.

He acknowledges that creativity springs from an artist’s inner voice or eye and is the most crucial factor in the creation process. “But a studio and its location”, he says, “play a vital role in manifesting those thoughts through materials and media in the real world”.

If one were to evaluate the technical details of his studio, it is just 2000 square feet in usable area. But it has been detailed and meticulously organised to accommodate art and multimedia projects. Its high ceiling, thanks to a warehouse type of construction, allows for very large artworks to be made. It can also accommodate a film crew to set up lights etc, for a film production assignment!

Located adjacent to the Sharjah Golf Club (within Sharjah Airport International Free Zone), it has access to round the clock security, maintenance, food courts, residential areas for staff, bank, supermarket and a mosque - at walking distance.

“A sense of peace prevails in the atmosphere except for an occasional aircraft that descends from above. One doesn’t get to hear any take offs since the runway is in the other direction... What do you call this…a piece of paradise?!”

He sells both originals and fine art prints which he carefully manufactures himself, to ensure perfect colour output. The upcoming exhibition is free to attend and is held in a dedicated art space, accessible from the hotel lobby and therefore open at all times.

A copy of his book titled ‘99 Names of Allah’ will also be gifted to every visitor at the opening reception, while high quality affordable prints of his large body of work will be made available to visitors by MONDA Gallery.
 

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