Bahraini artist Abbas Almosawi, has been an integral part of Bahrain’s art history over the past 40 years, showcasing his work in Bahrain and internationally. He has successfully highlighted the level of talent in Bahrain by founding platforms such as Bahrain Arts Society and the Photographer’s Club for budding artists to participate, learn and grow through various art media. Focused primarily in the medium of painting, Almosawi sat with Perle Magazine and spoke about his life as an artist thus far.
Growing up in Manama, in the neighbourhood of Naim, Almosawi’s family home was itself a work of art with a geometrically decorated ceiling and demi-lune windows over the doors and stained glass. A naturally shy person, Almosawi found solace in art as means of recovering from his quiet demeanour through his drawings and paintings. He initially developed an interest in sketching during secondary school and upon the encouragement of his teacher, famous Bahraini painter, the late Abbas Al Mahrous, Almosawi decided to follow the path of art. He would create sketches of his siblings and imitate the art pieces in his own home for practice. Though Almosawi soon became passionate about sketching, he did not seek to pursue it as a career. His admittance to the Teacher Training College in the early 1970s lead Almosawi to discover a love for painting, and guided him to becoming the celebrated painter he is today. During art lessons at training college, Almosawi would become completely engulfed in his paintings and also learnt it was a way for him to gain control over his shyness through his art pieces. His penchant did not go unnoticed, and was further encouraged by his art teacher – a person who proved to be heavily influential on Almosawi’s art career.
Almosawi’s teacher, Ahmed Baqer, was an artist himself and helped shaped Bahrain first-generation artists’ understanding of what constituted as a ‘work of art’ when he exhibited his “unfinished and unframed sketches” to the praise of many who attended the show. Having awarded a doctorate by the University of Sorbonne, Baqer’s work and ideals about how art should be taught went on being incorporated into the Bahraini school syllabus. The presence of Baqer in Al Moswai’s life greatly impacted the way Almosawi created art, working on it diligently until it was perfect.
Working mainly on canvas with acrylic paints, Almosawi’s artwork spans over various muses such as people, animals, nature and inanimate objects displayed in either abstract, portrait or still-life manner. Much like any form of art, Almosawi’s style has developed and evolved over time, with his most recent theme of artwork revolving around portraits of “the lady with the red lips”. Inspired from a painting he saw in a museum on his visit to Greece, Almosawi decided the simple yet elegant painting was something that he would also recreate in his own style. His first painting in the series was created as a present for a close friend, followed by an entire collection following the theme of the red lips.
Using ingredients such as papyrus paper and henna mixed with paint, Almosawi says his techniques allow his paintings to be brighter and give his work a longer life. Creating around 5-10 boards at a time, Almosawi says it is important for him to work on plain and levelled surfaces to create a good piece. Making sure to represent Bahrain through all his work, Almosawi’s work has elements of the Kingdom incorporated in all his paintings. He says of the 3000 paintings have been sold over 40 years, the most popular paintings that have been those of the souks in Bahrain. With a background in Interior Design, Almosawi was also able to create an instillation piece depicting the ‘Mermaids of the Gulf’, with the figurines dressed in traditional-style female clothing, fish tails, and a backdrop of the waves and the Bahraini landscape. Created for the annual fine art exhibition held at the Bahrain National Museum under the patronage of the Prime Minister, Almosawi’s work juxtaposed culture with myth to showcase the Gulf region in a unique way.
Almosawi’s paintings not only depict the Kingdom in a new light, but also aim to promote the noble cause of achieving peace through art. The celebrated artist was invited by UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon to be a part of the United Nations’ 70th anniversary in Washington, by showcasing his work. To mark the anniversary, the UN is holding a peace event that will feature Almosawi’s paintings. Having been present at the 50th and 60th anniversary as well, Almosawi details the previous events, which were held in Geneva, that called on various artists to also exhibit their work using different art forms such as photography, films, painting and theatre to represent their feelings and further develop ideas. There are also activities for the participants to take part in to become more involved with the work the UN is carrying out.
Fortunate enough to fulfil his long-life dream of opening up his own studio, Almosawi’s eponymous studio displays a wide selection of his work, including old and new pieces, the majority of which are from his famous “lady with the red lips” collection.
Almosawi’s Arabian Horses paintings were also featured in the Art Bahrain Exhibition. Additionally he was also asked to feature his work in Washington for an art exhibition as well as in Japan. The esteemed artist was also asked by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to have his work hung across the halls, both in Dublin and Bahrain locations of the institute. Among many other achievements, Almosawi’s work was also used as designs by Bahraini fashion designer Nada Alawi of the label Annada on her scarves, as well as being asked to do an exhibition in New York. Almosawi says because his work takes him all around the world, he leaves his art supplies and materials in different countries so that once he reaches there, he can instantly start his work.
With his hands currently full, Almosawi says he looks forward to working with his son in the future; who is currently studying film directing. He says they plan to bring a group of people to Bahrain from the Los Angeles based university his son is attending, and in association with famous Bahraini photographer Khalifa Shaheen, to produce a video about Bahrain and have them meet with Bahrainis to help them capture the true essence of Bahrain.
For more information about Abbas Almosawi’s gallery:
Villa 577, Road 4720, Block 547, Al Qurrayah, Bahrain
(00973) 7709 5955/ 3621 7770
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