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Artist Spotlight: Mohammed Adel

Mohammed Adel is a painter from East London and recent graduate from Camberwell College of Art. His untitled piece is part of a larger oeuvre of work that is visceral, emotional, and deeply connected to his chosen medium. You can view more of Mohammed’s work by following him on Instagram, or on his website.

Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work? MA: I am a recent painting graduate from Camberwell University of Arts London who is based in East London. Coming from a Bengali, Muslim background I never really had any artistic influence so it has always been a question in my mind how I came into art, but here I am. My work has multiple strands as most artists at this stage probably do, I know it is advised in the collecting and selling world to stick to an aesthetic but I’m not much of a fan of that, I would like to be involved in multiple forms of art from performance, installation, wherever the concepts take me, however my practise in anchored by painting. My work ranges from dealing with ideas of the visceral, manifesting a sense of beauty, sinister, foreboding and intangibility in my paintings, using imagery, often of nature as a subject that lends its emotional associations, to transcend it into something else completely. I think contemporary representational painting deals with exactly that, using imagery for what it lends and taking it somewhere else through artistic decisions. The other strands in my practise is dealing with culture and identity, not seeing a lot of myself in the art world is something want to address and reflecting that in my work is a start.

Killing Time,105x90cm, Oil on canvas, 2018

What inspires you? MA: I guess its knowing I’m passionate about art and I like to think I make good work too. I want to be able to do something I enjoy for the rest of my life. I don’t have much of a profound answer, what inspires me artistically is a different question I guess. Artistically I’m inspired by everything, it’s almost like I see everything around me through art, always thinking about how I can transform something and pull something out of a subject that isn’t ordinarily there.

Do you have any influences? There are a lot of artists whose works I love, some more relevant to my practise than others, for example one of my favourite painters is Caravaggio and one of my all time favourite paintings is Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ but how much they influence me is different, I really do enjoy creating drama with light so perhaps there is an influence in that sense. Another all- time favourite painting is Ilya Repin’s ‘Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan’, I do enjoy horror, less in a gory way but more so when the viewer can feel the emotion of a story such as Repin’s painting. I am a huge fan of Peter Doig’s work, the taking of an image and reimagining it through your hand is exactly how I like to paint and most of my contemporary influences are similar such as Michael Armitage, Hurvin Anderson, Reggie Burrows Hodges, Mama Andersson. I also look up to artist who have a ranging practise such as Francis Alys, his practise is so multidisciplinary but feels grounded in that there’s always an element of being relatable. It doesn’t feel too far gone.

Night Scene, 30x25cm, Oil on canvas, 2017

How does your work reflect your lived experience? MA: My work came through a mix of things, my landscape works started from a sense of frustration and an artistic block actually, I felt I was searching for something intangible, something on the tip of your tongue but couldn’t quite get. I rationalised the urge to create but having nothing tangible by making the parallel of beauty and sinister. I collected imagery from places like Dover Cliff as I associated nature to emotion and also as something malleable, I could instil emotion through how I painted and my imagination, only using the imagery. However, I also draw from culture and my environment in other aspects of my works. I am currently looking a lot at my family photo albums, how a lot of people I don’t know exist in a personal space. So there is a range of ways my work relates to my lived experience, at times I am more so deriving from instinct and emotion while at other times it is more about pulling concepts from observation.

Children, 30x25cm, Oil on canvas, 2017

What do you wish for viewers to take from your work? MA: I don’t want my work to feel like it gives an answer but provides an experience, some works probably do that more than others but the open ended notion is important as it allows something to be taken with the viewer, whether it’s just an enjoyment of the painterly aspects or more than that. What is your process? MA: I often work with images but I move away from being too representational, more so interpreting the image into something else entirely. This allows me to use all kinds of imagery, found as well as images I take, nothing is off the books. I try to be organic and let the work lead me, starting from something small and my curiosity and overactive mind does its job. I like to let concepts drive the direction of a project and work in a way that satisfies the ideas.

Untitled, 120x190cm, oil on canvas, 2021

How did you develop your style? MA: Originally I was very representational and that still plays a part in dealing with technical elements of my works but I let my instincts drive me. I felt as my practise progressed I became less patient in certain ways and so allowing myself to stray in how I apply paint, how I deal with elements of light, figures and such. I think I am still developing an artistic vocabulary so things will vary a lot and am still developing my style. What’s next for you? MA: I want to sustain a studio practise and put on more shows while finding more work experience in the art world, that first step is difficult as it seems like everyone is looking for already experienced people. I want to also be able to find ways to encourage people from a similar background to be more involved in the arts. I am looking forward to creating a consistent body of work and resolving the direction of my practise.

Stroller, 35x25cm, Oil on canvas, 2017

Any advice for artists starting out on their creative journey? MA: The most relevant advice at the moment would be to not be pressured by social media. Time works differently on social media, you can find yourself expecting a huge change in a week on social media and that can kill your morale whereas in real life a week is nothing. Being so caught up in something that’s constantly in front of you is easy, social media has its advantages but the real world exists, work to your own timetable and pace and look to identify the negativities something has before using it. Also look to be involved, it may sound like everyone who is ahead of you has lucky breaks, and at times it is true, some people have links, however opportunities come through being constantly involved, it cultivates an environment that works to provide you with opportunities. Lastly, get used to rejection, take on the mindset that the goal is to apply to opportunities not to always be successful, set aside a day a week to apply to all your opportunities, that consistency increases your chances.

We’d like to say a big thank you to Mohammed for taking the time to answer our questions, and for sharing his beautiful work with the Creative Collections team.

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