About The Work
Learning Through Painting
Mueens works are highly narrative. He does not believe in photogenic paintings or art that is intended to create shock value. Mueen feels a lot of the art today is extremely provocative and good at creating instant reaction from people but very few tend to go beyond that initial shock and create lasting contemplation. Mueen uses acrylic on canvas and before he begins his work, he usually has no idea what that canvas would end up like. He discovers what he is looking for by the act of painting itself. While painting all manner of inspirations come to him, be it a song he heard or a colour he saw and he weaves these together into the form of storyline. His art is not intended to create an initial reaction from people, rather it is meant to provide a framework for contemplative discovery. Once you sit and observe the paintings for awhile you begin to discover and notice a large manner of things you wouldn’t have in the first glance, all the while taking you deeper and deeper into the artists subconscious and creative thought process. This to Mueen is the therapeutic quality to art that he believes in the most. He doesn’t feel the artist should impose a world view explicitly into an audience nor provoke reaction for its own sake. He prefers the understated depth and richness that art can offer in being observed and studied for longer periods of time and at each interval to bring forth new revelations and thoughts not observed before.
For Mueen Saheed, painting was a journey that he longed to embark on. It took some time and some inspiration, but he is finally living his dream as an accomplished artist. It was a journey he believes started during his travels in Europe, where spent time visiting over 30 museums and galleries, such as the Lourve in Paris.
But before he began his journey as a painter, he was a renowned jeweller. He has won numerous awards as a jeweller with his brand, Billari Fine Jewellery (formerly Regent Fine Jewels). In 1996 he won prestigious Jewellers of America Jewel Award in 1996, where he competed with over 300 artists from across the globe and the Golden Apple Award for Innovation in the US in 2002, where he was the first Asian to win.
While jewellery was a lucrative business for him, in his heart he kept his dream of being an artist alive. When he was in Malaysia in 2005, he met an arist called Romino who in turn introduced him to street artist called Mr. Salleh, who encouraged him to pursue his passion and paint. “He said something that I’ll never forget,” muses Mueen, “He said, ‘I won’t teach you. You must learn by yourself’”. That was the trigger that led him to be the artist he is today.
Since then he has had numerous exhibitions from the Langkawi Geopark Art Exhibition to the Lionel Wednt. He was commissioned to do paintings for CHOGM and has presented paintings to heads of state, such as the Malaysian Prime Minister and the King of Brunei. He is currently working on a painting for the Indian Prime Minister.
Mueen’s choice of art is abstract art, and he feels its a medium with a lot of freedom, which leaves a lot up to the individual person’s own perception. What is so unique about this medium is that every time you look, you never see the same image, “Abstract art allows us to reflect, ponder and reconnect.” He says, “I feel that the art really connects with your soul and you can reflect your true self in this medium. Looking at a piece of abstract art you discern it as whatever you want. Your subconscious and conscious mind are bridged, and it allows you to take a step away from reality.” With his art, Mueen wants to provide his audience with an escape from the issues that daily life often brings us.
Charity and social awareness are subjects that are close to Mueen’s heart, one such issue was the horrific rape of Vidya in Jaffna. He wrote a poem titled “By being a man…be a man” and did a series of painting to go along with the poem. “I wrote this poem in the memory of Vidya,” explains Mueen, “I have had it translated into Sinhala and Tamil as well in order to spread awareness and educate the younger generation to be more aware of their social responsibilities and to respect women.” Mueen hopes to give the poem and paintings to schools to continue to spread awareness. As a result of the poem, Mueen was invited by AWAM (All Womens Action Society), an independant women’s action society based in Malaysia, to talk about the issues of gender based violence in Sri Lanka.
Mueen is currently working on two other charity projects and is also hoping to have an exhibition at the Lionel Wednt next year.
by Sadhana Senanayake