Flawed Beauty: In Conversation With Mohammed Hindash

Beautopsy marks Mohammed Hindash’s first solo show and the painter’s visual autopsy of society’s obsession with physical perfection. It’s highly unusual for a student to land a solo show at a gallery, and as a senior at American University in Dubai (AUD) and the former recipient of the prestigious Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award, Mohammed is certainly an emerging artist to watch. Beautopsy opens 16 March at FN Designs on Alserkal Avenue.

Before the exhibition was installed, we sat down at the gallery with Mohammed’s canvases leaning against the walls and shared an informal morning conversation in between our first and second cups of coffee. Here is how our interview unfolded:

Plaything, From the 'Beautopsy' series, 2015

Plaything, From the ‘Beautopsy’ series, 2015

Danna Lorch (DL): Your work centres around notions of beauty. What pulls you to that theme again and again?

Mohammed Hindash (MH): When I reflected upon society’s obsession with beauty, the first thought that came to mind was plastic surgery. People alter themselves now more than in any other time in history.

DL: There is tremendous pressure to attain physical perfection.

MH: It stems from insecurity. A minor physical flaw is not even noticed by anyone else, but can become a personal obsession every time you look in the mirror.

DL: How did you begin to refine these thoughts into the show’s concept?

MH: Initially, I experimented with the dots that a cosmetic surgeon applies during a consultation. Then I worked with the idea of cutting in a more abstract sense, to show how every person has multiple facets.

DL: Which painting is the show named for?

MH: Beautospy talks about the human desire for pure aesthetic perfection. It is made up of 19 separate canvases that extend 7 metres in length and are 2 metres in height, and this work will be the main focal point inside the gallery.

DL: Did you paint each canvas separately or simultaneously?

MH: I tried to become a human printer as I worked on this, painting a layer on each canvas, then looping back to the first until the entire image became clear.

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DL: Are these portraits and studies of people you know or strangers you have imagined meeting?

MH: I always work on portraits of friends or people that I know in some way. This series actually incorporates a self-portrait, but it is not done in an obvious way. You’ll have to really look for it.

DL: How did receiving the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award grow your practice?

MH: It made me take my art even more seriously and enrol in university to work towards my first solo show. Before I won the award I took a couple of gap years and studied illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I used to only work in ink. When I returned [to Dubai] I began painting for the first time. I had always been very much against it in the past.

DL: Why did you have such strong feelings for ink and an aversion to paint?

MH: Ink felt more personal. I was always hovering over my drawings at the table. I thought that paint could never be as expressive in intricate details. But when I applied the techniques I’d learned with ink to painting, I was surprised to discover that I’m actually a painter. Now, I never work with a brush that is wider than two inches and I believe that I would not have been able to paint if I hadn’t first worked in ink.

DL: Your work always orbits the concept of beauty in one way or another. Where did your obsession begin?

MH: I’ve actually been heavily influenced by advertorials. They sell an idea of beauty that is not real and it fascinates me that millions of people fall for it even though we know that the models have been PhotoShopped. Yet we still go to buy these products, just hoping.

DL: Are you working out of a studio at AUD or from your room at home?

MH: My canvases are too big to fit at home these days, so I use space at the university.

DL: What were you listening to in the studio while you worked on this show?

MH: I’ve been painting to a lot of Tori Amos and American Hi-Fi, which is what I liked when I was 12 or 13. I like listening to things that bring back memories of when I was sitting and drawing in my room as a teenager.

DL: Have you suffered periods of creative block?

MH: Once I felt that way for an entire year. I spoke with a friend’s mother who is a life coach. She said something really interesting that I still remember: “Not doing anything is a creative process on its own, because ideas are building up subconsciously in your head.” She suggested that I embrace these dry periods. Right after that talk I painted again.

Studio shot at AUD

Studio shot at AUD

Good Ideas: Beautopsy opens at FN Designs on Alserkal Avenue the evening of 16 March. This interview appears in Issue 20 of AMOR (amagazineofrandom).

Image Credits: Courtesy of Mohammed Hindash and FN Designs.