White sheets cocoon the body of a woman in marble-like alabaster, her face broken into a smile, perhaps a moan; is she trying to escape it, or is she wrapping herself further? This was one way I interpreted Maldha’s ‘Seize’ – part of her oil painting series that was inspired from Boris Ovini’s photography.
At just twenty years old, Maldha is quietly gaining recognition for her dream-like art works that can easily immerse any viewer into her fantasy. After completing her O’levels in Art and Design, she aspires to pursue a degree in creative multimedia. “The thought of animating my art is so intriguing to me”, she said.
At such a young age, Maldha has accepted oils as her preferred medium to paint her surreal world and has even bagged a few exhibitions within the past few years; at the Maldivian Festival of Arts and a group exhibition held in Berlin Germany. Defining her work as contemporary surrealism, Maldha was working on her solo exhibit ‘Hiyala’ this year which was held at Hotel Jen, whilst juggling being a student. After a hectic year of studying and exhibiting she is taking a a much needed hiatus. But taking a break in her terms, means picking up the brush once again, breaking free from her comfort zone and exploring new concepts and styles. She started with different mediums and has worked with charcoals since she was young, after delving into oils, her recent forte is inks. Maldha shares with us what she is currently working on and how she gets inspired to create.
As one of the youngest surrealist painters in the Maldives, how would you describe your work?
I’d describe my work as something that’s driven out of intense emotions. I think it’s rather momentary and visceral. It has a lot to do with psychology and human behavior around me. My work ranges in deep subdued palettes but as of late I’m trying to apply more color to shift the contrast between my old work and new with impasto and white backgrounds rather than the darker shades I’ve grown used to. I’m trying to give the work more depth and personality.
What kind of message or feeling do you intend to put across through your paintings?
There’s no direct message I’m trying to apply with my work. I think mostly I’d just like the viewers to relate to it because it’s something so personal to me. Most of the reason why I paint and share them is because I’m so curious about the way people interpret my work. It’s so interesting to really hear out a person because sometimes I may not even see a message and this person may have an interpretation that seems to make more sense than my own. It’s mostly because I’m a very scattered person that way. Continuous flows of thoughts and concepts are always rushing through my head. If I were to make my viewers feel anything, it’d be nostalgia
Your pieces portray mostly women, could you tell us how significant this is to you and your work? And what is it about your subject that allures you to it constantly?
It’s mostly a self-reflection of myself. You paint what you understand the most and I’m the person I understand the most. I guess you grow used to dragging yourself with you each and every day that you start to visualize your emotions and then you end up really applying that depth to your work. A lot of people say that my subjects end up looking like me which could explain that. I think for me it’s also somehow empowering to paint women. At the end of the day though it really has more to do with the person’s psyche and painting an inward experience.
‘Hiyala’ was one of your most popular exhibitions held in Male’, how was it received by the general public?
Hiyala was very well received and I’m honestly so humbled for that. I’m honored I got the opportunity, thanks to Maldivian Artist Community and Hotel Jen, whom were all really cool and helpful with making it a success. It was a chance for me to explore my take on Maldivian folklore and it was really interesting to see how people perceived that. There are some people who stayed and lingered around for hours making interpretations out of the art and I don’t think there’s anything nicer than that.
We’ve seen your work being likened to Dali’s, and unquestionably he is among the many surrealism masters who are renown for the surrealism movement of the ’20’s. Who inspires your work? And who are the artists and their work, from today, that you admire?
While Dali is a main influence, some of my favorite artists are from that surrealism movement. I absolutely love the work of René Magritte, I think there’s something beautiful about the way he sees the world. I also love Frida Kahlo. A lot of my inspiration is driven out of music/ musicians and philosophers as well. I’ve to always play something when I’m painting. I think inspiration really comes from everywhere around me like the people I see and talk to on a daily basis. Observing them influences my work. Artists from today that I really admire would be Henrik Aa. Uldalen, Emilio Villalba, Ely Smallwood and so much more. The artist Kit King greatly influenced some of my earlier work when I was mostly drawing using pencils.
We noticed that you mostly work with oil colors, is there a certain reason why you prefer it over other mediums?
Yes, I absolutely love blending and oils are so fluid that it really helps me achieve that especially when I work on human skin. They have little conflict with pigment. Since I work with loose strokes and also texture, the thickness of oil paints as well as the dilution of it allows me to switch between whichever I prefer for my work. I love that you can really create more depth and make your work almost come alive whilst using oil paints. They don’t dry for ages so you can just keep coming back and retouching/ changing it however you’d like. It almost feels like sculpting. It’s honestly such a flexible medium to work with.
Any new works from you, that we should look forward to?
I’m working on a new series of paintings, not particularly for any planned exhibition or anything. I’m just working and trying to push myself to create something everyday. This new series is very experimental, and I haven’t posted it on my social media platforms, yet. I especially love creating art with my three year old baby brother so even if I’m not doing it as a serious thing or taking any commissions, you can safely say that I’m almost always immersed in the art world.
As an artist from a small archipelago, how do you perceive the art scene in the Maldives? And what are your hopes for the creative community you belong to?
The art scene grows every day and there’s honestly so many skilled people vastly involved in the arts here in this tiny country, not to mention people breaking into the community almost every day. I love the entrepreneurial efforts from some artists and how they are really proving the fact that business and arts go hand in hand. I honestly hope that the art community would keep on supporting other artists and not look down on each other because there’s really space for everyone here. I’d like everyone to be accepting of each other and really maintain some positivity within the art community. It’s also lovely that artists are really embracing their own style and individuality as of late and I hope the society would try to have an open mind about that. Honestly, when you put hours and hours of your day into creating and sharing your vision within society, you’d like it to be valued and I seriously think this is something people should be doing more often. At the end of the day really, respecting one another is really what it’s all about.