In an age where we are bombarded with a plethora of visuals everywhere we look, click or swipe, artist Sam’s Instagram page gives a respite from the chaos. Her refreshing aesthetics laid out in the grid consists of acrylic paintings of waves laced with white foam or water colored, dream-like turtles gliding in the ocean with specs of gold foil. Being a Maldivian and living in the country means coming across thousands of underwater and ocean images – yet, her paintings seem to have a déjà vu effect, recalling the first time we experienced the salty ocean or spotted a turtle. Samiyya or Sam as she is fondly known, does not remember a time she did not paint. Art plays an integral part in her life. After exhibiting her pieces at ‘Unveiling Visions’ exhibition held in 2017 by NGO Maldivian Artist Community (MAC), Sam stepped into the field as a professional artist.
What inspires your paintings ?
Majority of my work is mostly inspired by my surroundings, nature and particularly the beautiful ocean surrounding this tropical country. Sometimes we forget to just stop for a moment and look around, see the beauty of creation and cherish it. I like to preserve those feelings and nature’s colors I see around me. But since everything is slowly fading away because of our actions, I started to focus more on spreading awareness that we are indeed close to ruining our biggest blessing that we are dependent on, which is the ocean.
.. never give up, don’t compare yourself to others and always keep trying. In a country like this it would be difficult to get your name out there as a creative person or even have your work valued ..
The photos from your solo exhibition “Ocean Eyes” held at Lecute’s store in Male’ city was shared everywhere on Instagram and other social media platforms. Where else has your work been exhibited so far?
My work was exhibited at the ‘Unveiling Visions’ exhibition held in 2017 and 2018 as well. I have exhibited my work at ‘Fannugedharin’ festival in 2018, and took part in the art festival held at Hulhumale’. One of my second largest work was exhibited at Kandima Island Resort for their annual ‘Kula’ festival with several other amazing artists as well, and it is still currently on display at their art studio for anyone to view or purchase. Some of my work has been displayed at cafés as well. Some of them are at Oevaru Art gallery and Modus Operandi, where I did a mural for them as well.
You often use acrylics on canvas to create paintings, would you say that it is your most preferred medium (or are there other mediums you lean towards more) and why?
I personally prefer oil paint on wood as my main medium, but it is very difficult to find good quality oils and the paint thinners in the Maldives. The cheapest available is acrylics so I tend to use more of acrylics on larger pieces. Oil paint is the easiest to use compared to acrylics cause of the smooth blending properties and the slow drying time.
What are the challenges you face as an artist in the Maldives?
As I have mentioned before, finding the proper, good quality supplies is one of the biggest challenges here. If we are to get any, we would have to order online for an insane amount of money. And since art is not very valued here in the Maldives, people don’t find it interesting or even important to support local artists and crafters. Not to mention us artists of all kinds don’t have a proper place to exhibit our work for the world to see. The national Art gallery doesn’t live up to it’s name and is used for other functions as a rental space. Art is very undervalued here in a country which used to be so rich in art long ago.
.. The national Art gallery doesn’t live up to it’s name and is used for other functions as a rental space. Art is very undervalued here in a country which used to be so rich in art long ago ..
Could you tell us a little bit about your ongoing projects?
At the moment I am preparing for ‘Unveiling Visions’ 2019, aiming to create something very different from what I normally make. And I am planning to hold another solo exhibition too as well!
Do you have any advice for other creatives?
My biggest advice would be, to never give up, don’t compare yourself to others and always keep trying. In a country like this it would be difficult to get your name out there as a creative person or even have your work valued. You will see greater artists out there but that doesn’t mean you are bad at it. They were at your spot before they got to that point. Have passion, never give up and keep practicing every second you get. Sketch all the time and fill a hundred books of them. There is no good or bad artist when you create art. Keep doing what you love to do and chase your dreams
Being a professional artist in the Maldives is often frowned upon by society. Why did you choose to become one and how do you think you can change this stereotype?
That is one of my biggest aims as a local artist. I chose to become an artist because it’s who I am. It is not just a hobby or a way of earning or even a career. And I believe all of us artists should do as much as we can to spread awareness that having professional artists in this country is something for us to be proud of. And being one should not be considered as a failure. All the restaurants, café’s, clothing, music, decorations around your house and the games you play on your phone would not be possible if it wasn’t for artists. I want to make people aware of this and to appreciate it.