Al Quoz industrial area in Dubai is nesting astonishing large-scale spaces dedicated to contemporary Art and Design in the least expected places. Aisha Alabbar Gallery is one of them, hosting until 30th June 2021 the solo exhibition ‘I write in colour’ of Dr Najat Makki, a pioneering Emirati artist (Dubai, 1956) best known for her curiosity for color and dreamlike, abstracted depictions of the natural landscape in the UAE. Considered one of the innovators of the local scene, Dr Najat Makki has exhibited extensively in her home country and internationally, and her works belong to permanent collections of Museums, Ministries and Foundations in the UAE.
In 2019, she had an acclaimed retrospective at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi entitled ‘Luminescence’. Her powerful creativity, curiosity and relentless production of art work is quite astonishing, backed up with a strong theoretical dimension. She holds indeed a Master’s degree from the College of Fine Arts in Cairo and is the first Emirati woman holding a Doctorate degree specialized in the Philosophy of Art (2001). I felt very privileged to visit Dr Najat Makki in her large studio based in Dubai and I must say, it is always quite emotional to enter the private creative space of an artist, and see the artworks, in progress or finished just before an exhibition. Of course, seeing the same pieces curated and installed in the huge exhibition space at Aisha Alabbar Gallery adds a whole new dimension and the result is quite spectacular.
Madame Magazine - When we visit your solo exhibition in Aisha Alabbar Gallery for the first time, the explosion of colours and diversity of format in your work (from multi-shaped canvases, glass and crystal sculptures to large-scale fluorescent fishing net installation) is striking. Explain your visual language, influences and inspiration.
Dr Najat Makki - I was inspired by symbols from nature, such as the sea, the desert, and the mountain heights in the Emirates, in addition to the rhythm of the human figure in the environment where I live. All these things created an integrated composition of colors, lines, and shapes in sequential rhythms, whether in colors or lines. What inspires me in color, follows also in form: the radiance of circular suns and moons, the brilliance of crescents, the precision of hexagonal beehives, the triangular mountain peaks and sand dunes, the color gradient in bodies of water and stretches of land. These elusive properties of the natural world are captured and transfigured onto canvas through color and form, creating a hymn that synthesizes my deeply personal transient experiences of natural phenomena. My consuming intrigue by the semantics of color were harnessed at a young age, when I would witness the colormap of vivid herbs laid out in sacks at my father’s spice shop. Thyme, henna, saffron and curcumin lured me in, presenting a new dawn of shade, texture and scent. To this day, my art practice is marked by daring surveys of new natural and synthetic materials, influenced by my reading of philosophy, poetry and my affinity for music.
MM - For this new body of work, you experiment with neon and fluorescent paint. What is your intention?
DrNM - The Fluorescent paints have an inspiring visual appeal. Since my first exhibit ion back in 1987, I started to experiment
with these colors in a rhythmic composition in order to introduce a different visual experience to the audience, inside a specially prepared dark room. Now I think this experiment has become more mature and thoughtful than before.
MM - Over the years, there is a recurrent female silhouette or figure that has become your signature throughout your body of work. Can you tell us why this female figure is so important to you and what it represents l iterally and metaphorically?
DrNM: The element of the female figure is my constant research in my artistic practice. The woman appears in my work in different contexts; she is the mother, the wife, and the land that embraces humans with her generosity. In some of the artworks, the woman has become more powerful with her ambition, futuristic visions, and achievements, which makes her very prominent in my paintings: we always see her elongating as if she is embracing the sky. I actually borrow from Ancient Egyptian relief carvings of female deities and mythological figures that embody tranquil stability, wisdom, strength and rebirth. My mind journeys back in history to conjure up images of the females in these bygone eras. The celebratory figures are unabashed in presence to make up for what I perceived is lacking in the representation of women in society.