Saturday November 17 2012

Painting with mixed media

Abushariaa says he is inspired by what he sees. Though he is mostly known for abstract art, he has also produced realism.

Abushariaa says he is inspired by what he sees. Though he is mostly known for abstract art, he has also produced realism. PHOTOS BY JUDE KATENDE 

By Jude Katende

Ahmed Abushariaa may be a new name to some readers, but not to fellow artists and art fans. He has been around for quite some time. Since 1991, shortly after his graduation from the College of Fine and Applied Arts at university in Sudan, Abushariaa has never looked back.

He first worked as a graphic designer for two years before venturing into art. He settled in Uganda after spending six and a half years in Nairobi, Kenya. He was also in Germany for two years as an artist in residence.

Artist-in-residence programmes and other residency opportunities exist to invite artists, academics, curators, and all manner of creative people for a time and space away from their usual environments and obligations.

Such opportunities provide a time of reflection, research, presentation and production. They also allow an individual to explore his/her practice within another community; meeting new people, using new materials, experiencing life in a new location. Art residencies emphasise the importance of meaningful and multi-layered cultural exchange and immersion into another culture.

It is such cultures and more that inspire the widely travelled artist. Abushariaa has exhibited widely all over the world and he is still travelling. His art has graced gallery walls in Kenya, Germany, South Africa, Tanzania, Sudan, Denmark, Norway, USA, Canada, Australia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. “Travelling is a good experience; you interact with what you see abroad and get lots of inspiration,” he explains.

Putting down roots
In 2003, at a Kampala exhibition, he decided to stay here permanently. The settling came with rewards as he found a Ugandan wife with whom the couple has three children.

The Nubian civilisation inspires him a lot. “Research says the cradle of mankind is in Nubia,” he argues. Some of his paintings depict Nubian or Muslim links. It could be a mosque or the dressing of the characters portrayed.

He is one of a few artists using water colours on canvas. With this new technique, he means to experiment with different media. However, it is a bit of a challenge. “It is difficult and it calls for lots of patience but I am trying,” he explains. In the end, the painstaking process is justifiable as he comes out with very nice pieces.

His favourite media is water colour but he also does acrylics on canvas, collage and mixed media. “I paint what I see. You cannot hide what you see.” He says his painting of fish was inspired by a visit to the lake. Although once in a while he becomes realist, he is more of an abstract artist. He has also done sculpture before and can do video art.

Some of his paintings have lots of space which is like a signature of sorts yet others are quite busy. “That is freedom, you see what you want to see. Your eyes have freedom to move or interpret my paintings differently,” he says of the space in the corners of some paintings.

On why some of his paintings remain untitled, he says he leaves that to the public to interpret and put titles to his paintings the way they feel like.

On why his paintings are priced in dollars, Abushariaa says it is easier because when he travels and exhibits elsewhere, there are times when the converted currency makes his work appear different or even lower. With the dollar, he has a fair way of balancing things irrespective of the country visited. Abushariaa, who will be exhibiting in Nairobi this December, takes about a year to gather material for one exhibition.

Luckily for Abushariaa, some of the paintings for this particular show were already bought so he won’t be doing anything new. He, however, stresses that all the works will be different from what he is exhibiting at AKA Gallery for the rest of this month. According to his website, he was born in 1966. He is a member of the Sudanese Artists Association, the Drawing Society and the South African Society of Artists. You can support the artist at the exhibition that ends November 30th.