Dancing to the beat of my art

Detail from Pure Bliss, Tasneem Shaikh

Exhibiting at the World Art Fair in 2022 and 2023

by Tasneem Shaikh

My heart races unusually fast. My joy has no bounds. For the first time, I am exhibiting my paintings at a major event, at World Art Dubai (WAD). It is March 2022. So far, I have only conducted art classes, lead art clubs and held small exhibitions, but this is different altogether. It is a beautiful feeling to plan the exhibit wall and buy the art materials.

I live in a remote area of Abu Dhabi, in the Western province, so I had to drive to the city to buy the art materials. I have a full-time job as a lecturer and I also have to do research for my PhD. I did not have enough time to shop for canvas rolls and frame each canvas individually, so I settled for the generic Winsor & Newton brand of stretched canvases, which I bought at a well-known book-store in the city.

For me, unwrapping the canvases, and the smell of the primed stretched canvas itself, produces a sensation of bliss.

Banff Mountains, Tasneem Shaikh

In January, I started preparing for the 2022 exhibition. I was excited and anxious about meeting the deadline. I made up my mind to finish on time. I dedicated most evenings to completing my paintings. All my paintings were a tribute to the Canadian landscape. I intentionally incorporated teal and turquoise into many of them because these colours remind me of the Banff lakes in Alberta. Some paintings were a breeze. I could finish them within an hour. In contrast, completing other paintings was more difficult. I felt like I had to discipline myself, as one might discipline a hyperactive child. By the end of February, I was brimming with pride; I had completed sixteen paintings, and chose nine paintings for the exhibition.

 Who knew that packing and moving the artworks would be such a humongous task? I was clueless. Then lovely YouTube videos came to my rescue. Following the advice of YouTubers, I was able to do it. I made a wise decision and invested in a four-wheeled dolly, an electric drill, nails, and a hammer. Bless the local handyman who taught me how to drill into a wooden box. The box was a gift from my friend Peter, who gave it to me before he said goodbye and returned to Manchester.

I did everything myself. I could afford to hire help, but I am wary when it comes to letting people touch my paintings. Call me whatever you may, but I guard my paintings like a mother does her infant children. I feel uncomfortable when people try to touch them.

In the late evening, on the day before the exhibition, I reached the exhibition hall. It was a three-hour drive after a long day’s work. I was tired and anxious, but happy. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions. Looking for the wall I was to mount my paintings on in the exhibition maze, I peeked at the stunning art on display. The other artists exhibiting were probably much more experienced. Their work took my breath away.

On the first day of the exhibition, I met talented artists from different parts of the world. They talk differently from ordinary people. They dress differently. I stood there, watching these brilliant, creative people in awe. I have this distinct memory stuck in my mind. I saw this lovely European artist dressed in a bright multi-coloured gown. She wore a fashionable hat which had a scarf wrapped around it. I work in a college where everyone suits up. Artists have a very different dress code. Gradually, I was absorbed into the mix of people.

Calm Blue

Calm Blue, Tasneem Shaikh

On the second day, the curators selected my Calm Blue painting for the art walk. The art walk is a segment of the World Art event in which the curator committee select paintings that catch their eye. The artists are then asked to walk down a ramp holding their pieces. I was unsure how doing this walk down a ramp in front of everybody would help me develop as an artist. I relished the feeling of being chosen. In my head, I felt like a champion.

Representatives from different art galleries and collectors showed interest in my paintings. One collector complimented my work, he said “You are gifted.” Of course, I thanked him for the generous compliment. I don’t know if I am gifted, but I know that I have a gift for enjoying the process of making art. It is therapeutic. It is a way to release stress. The viewers at the exhibition who saw my paintings said they felt peace and calm when they looked at them. Peace and calm were certainly not my frame of mind while painting them. I was stressed, anxious and recovering from a bad back.

Golden Sunrise, permanent exhibition at the Haegeumgang Theme Museum, Tasneem Shaikh

Then, in June, The Geoje International Art Festival selected my painting Golden Sunrise for permanent display at the Haegeumgang Theme Museum in South Korea. This is the description they attached to it:

The rise of dawn symbolizes a new era, rising up from the darkness and illumination. The layers of blue, lavender and golden hues take us to a wonderland that promises abundance. This abstract painting represents that everything is possible in life as long as we have faith and love. We continue to work until we achieve our goals, though they may seem impossible. It is possible for anyone of us to make a difference in someone’s life; the same applies to Mother Nature. Today is our day and we can turn lives around by possibly being a mere catalyst. If ever in doubt, then look around and reassure yourself with the overwhelming evidence our bountiful nature has to offer us.

Red Romance, Tasneem Shaikh

WAD ’23

The overall experience of participating in this big exhibition motivated me to participate in it again in World Art Dubai 2023. Again, it felt good. But this time, I was not a rookie. I had learned a lot. 2023 was pretty challenging in comparison to 2022. Work got harder. Tasks piled up and seized my weekends. In the end, I had less than ten days to complete nine paintings. Whenever I had time, I planned out each painting; the composition, the hues, the presentation and the whole shebang. This time I dedicated my work not to the Canadian landscape, but to my one year yoga experience. Yes, it took me almost one year to be able to perform the sun salutation, the ultimate yoga asana, which must be performed at sunrise.

Over both years, the four-day event felt like a celebration. Diverse artists displayed their unique art, including sculptures, mixed media paintings, live urban street art and pendulum paintings. The energy is contagious. I love the feeling of being a part of a greater art community.

I was moved by the experience that World Art Dubai offered. World Art Dubai is an unforgettable spectacle! I cherish those delightful moments when I can bask blissfully in my new life in art. The sensation of trying something new, pushing boundaries, defying expectations, facing fears and dancing to the beat of my heart is delightful.

Comments are closed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: