Wadi Finan Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, running until November 22nd 2018, showcases recent works by one of the leading contemporary Arab artists, Ayyad Al Nimer. Born in Egypt but based in the United States, Al Nimer’s works burst with colour and life, expressing an appreciation of life rarely captured by an adult artist. He says:

Although classically trained [at the Fine Arts Academy in Cairo], I was constantly in confrontation with my professors. Even as a student, I felt constrained by the restrictions of the establishment. I was rebellious. I wanted to paint with my soul.
Scenes from Ayyad Al Nimer’s exhibition at Wadi Finan Art Gallery

And paint with his soul Al Nimer does, focussing on channelling his purest emotions onto the canvas. While utilising the paintbrush primarily, Al Nimer does not limit himself to conventional methods, finding a joy in utilising whatever is within arm’s reach (including his hands and nails) to faithfully capture a variety of textures. This liberty in execution translates itself onto the canvas where, upon closer inspection, we witness heavily layered paint juxtaposed with scratched, seemingly unfinished sections. This rebelliousness transforms itself into a finished product that is both refined and unencumbered by tradition. Al Nimer prides himself on “painting like a child”, allowing his soul and mind to merge together to create controlled disorder.

My mind and soul work together like a steam train’s piston, constantly flowing back and forth between each other in a never-ending dialogue. This conversation flows through my arm and out of my hand onto the canvas. Often, I do not know where my painting is going when I start, I simply let it progress organically.
Scenes from Ayyad Al Nimer’s exhibition at Wadi Finan Art Gallery

For Al Nimer, painting should not be regimented in its process but free-flowing, allowing the art to take its own course. In order to achieve this level of freedom, however, he has had to learn how to ‘un-learn’ the fine art tradition taught to him in Cairo. With this reversion to the childlike, Al Nimer has succeeded in capturing a common memory shared by all: that of the joyful innocence of painting as a child with a freedom that is lost by most as we progress into adulthood. Thus, as the spectator progresses through the exhibition, a sense of contented nostalgia arises.

Scenes from Ayyad Al Nimer’s exhibition at Wadi Finan Art Gallery

Upon entering Wadi Finan, the spectator is met by a portrait of two musicians, a recurring theme in Al Nimer’s work. Although a visual artist, the decision to have Beethoven’s symphonies playing during the exhibition is not a random one. For Al Nimer:

Music is essential to creativity, I cannot paint without it. Whenever I create, I have to be listening to music, it helps my creativity flow out of my body and onto the canvas. I wanted the viewer to experience the environment in which I myself paint.
Scenes from Ayyad Al Nimer’s exhibition at Wadi Finan Art Gallery

With the visceral art works on display, paired with the artist’s chosen music, the experience at Wadi Finan Art Gallery is multi-sensual and transports the spectator into the mind of the artist, giving us a rare chance to experience art works on a deeply personal level.

All images courtesy of Wadi Finan Art Gallery