My UAE: How the Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem found himself

Mohammed Kazem recalls walking to and from school as a youngster and being taken by discarded objects he came across along the way. “The mundane, broken and unimportant [things] fascinated me, and I began to collect domestic detritus,” says Kazem, who lives in Dubai. “One day, I even brought home a left shoe I found […]

Mohammed Kazem recalls walking to and from school as a youngster and being taken by discarded objects he came across along the way. “The mundane, broken and unimportant [things] fascinated me, and I began to collect domestic detritus,” says Kazem, who lives in Dubai. “One day, I even brought home a left shoe I found on the street.”

Today, three decades later, the Emirati artist, who has earned accolades locally and internationally, admits he’s still fascinated by “collecting and documenting information about seemingly unimportant objects” and believes it’s reflected in his current works.

Kazem, who was born two years before the UAE was established and three years after the discovery of oil in Dubai, says that finding items was the start, but he developed an interest in art history books and other creative ventures soon after.

“I became interested in music and art, learning to play the oud, and I became fascinated by Cézanne, Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh – mainly Impressionist and Fauvist artists.”

At 14, Kazem’s family acknowledged his interest in the arts, and it was at this time that his teachers at the Tariq ibn Ziyad public school decided he had reached his educational limits at school.

“So in early 1984, a family friend, Youssef Salem Ahma, who had heard about the Emirates Fine Art Society in Sharjah, took me to the society to enquire about art lessons,” he recalls.

“When I began to study art, I trained as a painter. I’ve been deeply influenced by the Impressionism masters. Later, as I developed, mostly under the mentorship of UAE artist Hassan Sharif, I moved toward a more conceptual approach.”

Kazem’s art has been selected for several international biennials and exhibitions. Most recently, he was chosen by luxury-car brand Rolls-Royce as the first Emirati to create a commissioned sculpture for its Art Programme.

“As an artist a big part of my work is finding the right inspiration that can develop into artistic expression,” he says. “Rolls-Royce is a brand that is full of inspiration, from its rich heritage to its bespoke craftsmanship. We are looking forward to creating something truly memorable and unique.”

The final product is set to be unveiled later this year. In the meantime, Kazem has just returned from a residency programme in Seoul, and in September will participate in the first Yinchuan ­Biennale in China. He will also take part in the first Honolulu ­Biennial next year.

What are the five things you always pack when you travel?

I always bring my camera, clothes, small art materials, my thoughts, and a pair of sport shoes.

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekends?

I like to meet my friends and catch up with them.

What’s your favourite travel destination?

South Korea, because of its society overall, the ease of working there and the high quality of available materials and facilities for my work.

Can you describe your personal creative style?

I wouldn’t say I have a specific creative style – I work in a wide variety of mediums, depending on the project.

Do you have a favourite creative space or location you enjoy visiting in the UAE?

There are [so] many great spaces in the UAE that I can’t choose just one. I like change and to capture elements from various places and locations – I find it more beneficial to the nature of my work.

Who are your favourite artists in the UAE?

Hassan Sharif [pictured], Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdullah Al Saadi and Shaikha Al Mazrou.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

“You should not do in opposition, you should make something different” — this was given to me by artist Hassan Sharif.

Tell us something about you that not many people know.

There are very few people that I feel I can talk with freely and with full openness.

What sort of car do you drive and what does it say about you?

I drive a Jeep, which I guess would make me a bit of an explorer.

mhealy@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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