Muheera I Abdulrahim Salim
Muheera & I by Abdulrahim Salim
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Aisha Alabbar Gallery in Dubai presents Muheera & I, the solo exhibition by Abdulrahim Salim. One of the trailblazing Emirati artists who contributed to shaping the country’s art scene, in his works, Salim paints a distinct portrait of the nation’s cultural past. The show will be open to the public until 15 February 2024.

Abdulrahim Salim, Muheera & I (exhibition view). Aisha Alabbar Gallery, Dubai, 2023. Courtesy of the gallery.

In his diverse art pieces, Salim explores the female form and perfectly combines figuration and abstraction. The exhibition allows visitors to admire his creations produced during the period from 1999 to the present day: drawings, paper collages, and charcoal sketches on paper. On view are also his enigmatic paintings, in which figures or objects seem to be underwater and remind us of moving fishes. Deep indigos, noirs, ruby reds, and jewel tones swim in and out of each other. Defying a transparent reading of meaning, the effect focuses on capturing the textures and tints of the meaning itself.

Abdulrahim Salim, Muheera & I (exhibition view). Aisha Alabbar Gallery, Dubai, 2023. Courtesy of the gallery.

Fascinated with art since childhood, Salim pursued his passion at Cairo University in Egypt, from which he received a BFA in Sculpture. However, finding his studies unsatisfactory, he drew inspiration from the museum, where he would spend his time looking at the exhibits and sketching. After graduation in 1981, Salim returned to the Emirates intending to differ from other artists: from “the bland roteness” he had seen at the university. 

Abdulrahim Salim, Muheera & I (exhibition view). Aisha Alabbar Gallery, Dubai, 2023. Courtesy of the gallery.

He read the Ghazali book of magic, wanting his art to relate to and reflect it, and even began to practise the black magic rituals but stopped doing it because of his mother. She told him the story of Muheera, a woman who lived in Sharjah. After rejecting a man’s advances, she was cursed by him, went mad, and died in an accident. Moved by the tale, Salim decided to capture it in his work. 

Abdulrahim Salim, Untitled 43, 2020. Acrylic on canvas. 150 x 150 cm

Muheera and her story transcend being Salim’s muse and become rather his artistic vernacular. Mythology, magic, and their specific transmission within the Gulf form its grammar. Examining the intersections of spirituality and reality, the Muheera & I exhibition presents a connection traversing conventional boundaries of artist and muse and beckons us toward a cultural past.

About the artist

Abdulrahim Salim (b. 1955, UAE) resides in Dubai. Apart from practising art, he also taught art in Emirati public schools. In 1980, he became one of the founders of the Emirates Fine Arts Society and also served as its chairman.

Salim grew up among women, and it was his grandmother who encouraged him to pursue art and pushed him to constantly hone his skills. It has inevitably influenced his work and resulted in his focus on women’s forms and their stories. Other sources of Salim’s inspiration are magic, mysticism, darkness and light, geometry, Emirati culture, and the history of the Gulf region. The artist also draws from the work of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and British artist Francis Bacon. 

Abdulrahim Salim, Untitled 25, 2020. Acrylic on canvas. 150 x 150 cm

Salim has headed many solo shows in the Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt. The list of group exhibitions in which he has participated includes UAE Pavilion, the 56th Venice Biennale (Italy, 2015); Sharjah Biennial 5 (UAE, 2001); UAE Expo (Hanover, Germany, 2000); The UAE in the Eyes of Its Artists (Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, UAE, 1998); the Asian Art Biennial (Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1995); two editions of the Cairo Biennale (Egypt, 1988, 1992); the 1st exhibition of the Emirates Fine Arts Society in India (1990); and others.

Abdulrahim Salim, Untitled 106, 2019. Mixed media on paper. 70 x 50 cm

The artist has been granted multiple awards: the State Honour Award for Fine Arts, UAE (2008); the third prize in the exhibition Al Bahar, Saudi Arabia (2007); the Palme d’Or award for GCC artists (1996); the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Award (1995); the first prize at the Dubai International Exhibition (1994); the first prize at the Sharjah Biennial and the Jury Prize of the Cairo Biennale (1993), to name a few. Salim’s artworks can be found in private and public collections across the world, such as the Sharjah Art Museum, Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, Sheikh Hassan Al Thani Museum (Qatar), the Cultural Media Center (Paris, France), the Tate Modern art gallery (London, UK), UAE Embassy in Dublin (Ireland), and others.

To learn more about Muheera & I, please visit the show’s official web page.

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