Yusra Ahmed is an abstract artist with a Masters’ in Architecture from Moscow, Russia. She’s been living in Bahrain since 1996 and began painting seriously in 2002. Her works have been exhibited in the Bahrain Arts Society, AWA, Malja, Mashq, Art Divano and several other art exhibitions. She believes that art can be a form of expression and also of release. Her creative process is her catharsis, done with music and fingers – only once – and left behind, rarely altered. She always likes to start over on a blank page, every mood has its moment – that is when the art happens.
She is more recently known for her brushless painting style using wooden or plastic pieces with acrylic inks.
A few paintings and sketches of Ms. Yusra Ahmed are brought to you here.
You could read about the thoughts and experiences shared by Ms. Yusra on her painting journey below.
MyRefractions met Ms. Yusra Ahmed, an Architect by profession and an Artist by passion recently at an event in Bahrain Society of Engineers’ Hall in Bahrain.
The paintings talk straight to the soul of the audience. Subtle indications of strong emotions. Talks with colours, patterns and shapes. Some of the blank ink on paper sketches were more evocative than others; simple they are.
1. What inspired you to become an artist?
Art is a way for me to communicate emotions that language fails to express. The human condition attracts me, the tension between the outer and inner world. That is what I’ve been trying to capture through art, to give my psyche a voice and maybe if expressed well give others a chance to vicariously feel theirs.
2. How did you get where you are today?
I would say that I’m still in the early budding stages of my art career. I have just found my footing in a style that suits my being. My aim is to keep expanding my methods and techniques, to enhance my tools, to read more art literature and to hopefully master expressing my emotions through paper.
3. What are the main challenges you faced and overcame when beginning a painting?
Since I paint when possessed by strong emotions, starting to paint is not an issue at all. My painting process is a therapeutic catharsis for me, often accompanied by music which helps stimulate my emotional palette. I don’t have a preconceived idea or image in my mind when I place my first stroke; I let my intuition guide me. I paint first and look later. The colours speak to one another, sometimes they whisper softly, sometimes they argue, and other times they clash. I moderate this dialogue without imposing — it’s organised chaos.
4. At what point in the process of the painting do you begin to feel like the painting is almost completed?
Now this is the challenging part… to know when to stop. This comes naturally with a lot of practice and trial and error. But I would say it happens when my process reaches a point where my expression is satiated, although errors do happen. My early architectural background and self-learning has been absorbed into my subconscious and in time it has enhanced my feeble intuition into a strong and educated one. There are no rules here, so you are traversing a terrain without a map. That’s what makes it exciting.
5. Do you try to convey anything to the audience through your paintings?
I don’t try to express anything specific to the audience, because I don’t paint with a preconceived idea or theme. I just try to map my inner emotions on to the paper in the most authentic way I can. If people are touched in a certain way that would be wonderful for me, but my paintings are generally open to interpretation. I would like them to feel something, doesn’t matter what… that’s what counts.
6. Other than colour, shapes and patterns, what would you use to convey your feelings through a painting?
Besides the above mentioned elements I would say the most important technique that helps me communicate my art would be that my paintings are brushless. I use wooden pieces to scrape the coloured inks across the paper. This juxtaposition between the hardness of the wooden tool and the softness of ink create the tension and aliveness that I desire. The wooden pieces also help me apply pressure and control in subtle ways that the brush does not allow, this range allows further expression of my emotions right at my fingertips.
7. How has painting influenced your life and those close to you?
I would say painting as a therapeutic tool has helped me delve into my inner world and to map my subconscious in ways that have bettered me as a person. It has also offered me an escape where I can channel my emotions into an act of wild freedom. My family have been very supportive of my artistic process; it has helped them and those around me to become more sensitive to the subjective world of abstract art.
8. What qualities do you look for in people you work with or other artists?
I would say hard work, expression and authenticity are the three qualities I look for in people I work with or other artists. I look for uniqueness in peoples’ art, because I believe every soul is unique. If an artist does not use art as a tool to dig into the novelty of his/her soul that would be an unexplored potential.
9. How do you feel when you look at a blank canvas before the painting?
I feel great possibility and great danger. I feel like the stage is set and it is time for me to dance with my colours. Without planning, without thinking, just to feel my way through without fear—to be totally in the moment and letting that guide my hands. It’s the best feeling in the world!
10. Please share a few thoughts about yourself, your education, travels…
My encounter with art was with a difficult decision my husband and I had to make when completing our architecture studies in Moscow. There was a civil war in Yemen in 1994, and we migrated to Bahrain with our three year old son at the time. Even when I was in Russia studying art under strict academic principles, I felt suffocated. Objective art has no room for self-expression. So I began to doodle my thoughts and emotions in a diary. Patiently etching and hatching strange patterns, faces and worlds. I carried forward this habit especially after moving to Bahrain. My notebook became a place where I made sense of my alienation in this strange land. Art became my escape, a refuge I could call home. I never took my art seriously as it was very personal, and I lacked the confidence and knowledge in the world of abstract art. This changed in the 2000s as I began to learn and educate myself about abstract art, the established artists and the different schools. I also took several painting courses to familiarize myself with this world of subjectivity. Reading the philosophy and techniques of iconic artists inspired me and gave me confidence to delve even deeper into this craft. I had to learn how to appreciate art first, refine my sense and taste before I could enhance my own work. It was a big learning curve, but the thirst to know was immense. For the first time I had a direction to pursue in the spectrum of artistic genres. After experimenting with different tools and media, I began to narrow down the things that worked for my temperament and expression. Post-2012 was when I began to develop my own style, methods and techniques, while still improving it with a lot of practice. I feel I am still growing, the road is long and I am always trying to break new ground with my art while staying true to myself.