Me and She
Abdul Raheem Salem
Abdul Raheem Salem is one of the pioneers in contemporary art in the UAE and the Gulf. Salem’s work with variety of the medium has proved his excellence not only in painting but also in other mediums such as sculpture. His recent paintings are presented in form of human figures and black and white shapes. The exhibition at Total Arts at the Courtyard showcases the latest work by Salem which clearly displays artistic thinking and presentation ability through his paintings which are result of 25 years of his artistic career.
Abdul Raheem Salem’s childhood has had a strong influence on his practice today. Growing up whilst surrounded by strong women who told stories of magic gave him an insurmountable imagination and led him to draw at a very early age. This magic began with She. Who is She? His fascination with Mohera, a true story told to him as a child, of a young woman who lived in Sharjah during the 1940s triggered the magic that he continues to create until today. She rejected the overtures of a man and was in turn punished with a spell cast upon her to roam endlessly lost, homeless, a wonderer in her own city.
An integral part of his upbringing and of Arab culture, storytelling has long driven Salem’s practice and his longstanding fascination with the story of Mohera is manifested in all his creations. Over the years, Mohera has changed. She is older and wiser. She has grown with Salem and is no longer represented as a lost or wandering being, but rather, she sits calmly at peace with what fate cast upon her. However, she still has no face. Salem gives us no answers. He is merely asking us to locate our own Mohera in each work.
In fact, all his works are titled Me and She. She is Salem’s companion through a journey of discovery. With each brushstroke her pain, discernible, and his pain, expressed by her mere creation. Salem studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Cairo University in order to further diversify his education in art. He returned home in the 80’s to find the contemporary art scene underdeveloped, and in subsequence, committed himself to furthering art in the UAE. A dedicated pioneer of contemporary art in the UAE, he is a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society and chaired the foundation from 1982 to 2002. The award winning Sharjah-based artist has exhibited his work around the world.