Throughout the course of history, creative icons have made their mark on the world of art. Andy Warhol was the father of pop art. Gustav Klimt explored the realm of symbology, bringing us extraordinary works of abstract expressionism. And the beloved, Frida Kahlo brought to life the delightful paradox of ‘magic realism.’ And although each of these personal, artistic styles have become synonymous with the artists the world has come to know and love, the real wonder of it all lies in the subtle evolution of creative style.
Sometimes the best way to appreciate the work of an artist is not to look at one piece in isolation, but to consider the continuum of work as the artist grows as a creative thinker and as a human being. The changes may be subtle but meaningful, and old habits may occasionally give way to fleeting whims and moments of experimentation. To look at how art changes the artist and how the artist in turn, changes their art is to appreciate a journey rather than an end result.
A journey of transformation
When you see the work of Palestinian artist, Laila Masri, what will become immediate is her great love of colour, line and form. There is an abstract quality to her work but just like with the famous ink blot test, different people will see different images emerging from her work. Shapes and concepts from the real world appear and disappear in an exploration of what it truly means to move and be moved.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Western Ontario and completing residency programs at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Laila became a citizen of the world, allowing the expansion of her geographical boundaries to spill over into her artistic expression.
She wasn’t always an abstract artist. Her artistic journey began with the use of art as a form of social commentary. Her earliest work addressed issues involving identity politics and the representation of the feminine in mass media. During these formative years, she gained significant acclaim from producing work that challenged stereotypical norms and drew from her experience with Middle Eastern culture.
Today, she is an established artist and has exhibited her work in locations such as New York, London, France, Canada, Jordan and the UAE. If you look at some of her most recent designs, what may become apparent is that she has ‘let go’ – surrendered to the creative process, producing art that is multi-coloured, multi-layered and everything but minimal.
Expanding on this step in her evolution, she describes her personal art style as a “circuitry of shape and form, whether those shapes and forms come in Bauhaus-inspired puzzle pieces or marks made in palette knife strokes to form undefined composition.” And although you may be hard pressed to tie her style down to a single concept, she describes it most accurately as being “abstract figuration.”
Most recently, she led a team of students and staff from the Dubai International Academy, in creating an art piece that celebrates the UAE’s 51st National Day. The piece tells the story of the UAE and is a thought-provoking tribute to the power of diversity and inclusion.
Laila Masri X The Idō Movement
Laila typically produces three works of art at a time, jumping from one piece to another. She is; in all senses of the word, a multi-tasker of imagination. Her mediums of choice are oil paint, acrylic, ink and watercolour. It was during her experimentation with watercolour that she encountered Sandhya Lalloo of The Idō Movement, who prompted her to open her mind and eyes to the world of dance.
Watching the movement of dancers and mimicking that through art soon became one of Laila’s many talents. The sustainability-first philosophy behind the brand was also something she resonated with, and still holds close to her heart. Laila’s collaboration with The Idō Movement soon followed, resulting in the Laila Art Series T-Shirt – a melange of colour and shape that embodies a perpetual, graceful flow of motion. It’s a design made for people who are ‘going places.’
Art that speaks
What many may not know is that for Laila, art is as much a form of expression and a viable career, as it is a coping mechanism and a form of personal therapy. As a sufferer of anxiety, she finds solace in indulging in what she believes is an “inaudible language” – a conversation guided by the eye that leans into the viewer’s unique interpretation of and reaction to the subject matter.
Art is, as she believes, a common language that can transcend boundaries and barriers, allowing people like her to defy the odds and turn challenges into opportunities. In that transition lies personal power and a sense that in this big, wide world, there is indeed space and time for us all.