Artist Amira Rahim’s quest for colour

For the next part in our summer series we visit Amira Rahim, an abstract artist from the USA living in Abu Dhabi
The American artist Amira Rahim in her workshop in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National
The American artist Amira Rahim in her workshop in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National

The view from Amira Rahim’s Reem Island apartment in Abu Dhabi is a vast expanse of mostly empty desert dotted with grey buildings and covered by a perpetually bleached-out blue sky with a snake of pale blue sea curving its way around the edges.

Although she says she was initially excited to paint the city that she moved to just over a year ago, in reality she struggled to find inspiration in the landscape she describes as monochromatic.

“All the buildings looked the same and I began to crave colour,” says the American artist. “I resorted to visiting the grocery store more often because that was one of the most colourful places I could find. But then I had an epiphany and started to experiment with colour palettes in my art.”

Conversely, although Rahim had moved to Abu Dhabi from Newark, New Jersey, with a head full of ideas to paint the architecture and desert landscapes, she found herself moving into abstract art and filling her canvases with pinks, reds, yellows, blues and oranges.

“I was finding it harder to see the beauty in this foreign land and missed the many things in nature that I took for granted back home. The only way to compensate for this was with colour. I started experimenting with abstract landscapes and then something happened. It was like a spark was ignited and I needed to paint immediately all throughout the day. I couldn’t wait to try new colour combinations and compositions. I was no longer confined to merely painting what I saw in front of me or in a photograph. I could create the beauty that I desperately needed in my life and I haven’t looked back since.”

It was a surprising transition for this young artist who planned to be a lawyer after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh but then travelled around Europe and took inspiration from society and culture and then, last year, moved to the Middle East for her husband’s job.

She always had a talent for rendering realistic images and had been painting since the age of 13 when she landed her first job as part of a community art project commissioned by the city of Montclair, New Jersey.

But she never imagined herself taking her own path as an artist until she arrived in Abu Dhabi and found herself disenchanted, wanting to make art to make her feel good.

“I am interested in the effect of colour on the psyche and I feel like my job right now is to keep trying different schemes and palettes and concentrate on how they make me feel rather than how the painting itself looks.”

Describing the process of the application of paint as intuitive, Rahim goes to her canvases on a daily basis with her brushes, a water spray and sponges and unloads her feelings onto her paintings.

She says to her it is like visual poetry on paper and that it is a very personal process.

The results have been impressive and people have responded well. With an online shop and regular participation in local markets and bazaars, Rahim has met a lot of people who are interested in her art and secured many sales.

“Now I am thinking about galleries. There are so many here and such a vibrant art scene, I would like to get involved,” she says.

Although still at the beginning of her journey into abstraction and regularly painting other things such as brightly coloured animals, Rahim is certainly in a place now to have an effect on the local art scene.

“My plan now is to keep making the art that I love and trust that my fans will continue to support me.”

• See more of Amira Rahim’s art at

Published: August 10, 2014 04:00 AM


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