Making a splash in the local art scene is American Amira Rahim, 25, a contemporary abstract artist who just moved here from New Jersey, and who has boldly proclaimed Abu Dhabi as her new canvas. Tempo took a step into her colourful world…

Amira: I was born and raised in Newark, NJ, an urban melting pot and the birthplace of many creative talents. I came to Abu Dhabi shortly after I got married as my husband’s work is here.


Tempo: How did you get into the arts?

Amira: I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. I would draw and read nonstop as a kid. When I was young, I drew every day and spent a lot of time looking at children’s book illustrations, but my favourite thing was houses. When I found out what an architect did, I was sure that was what I was going to become. I still like to paint architecture, and buildings often appear in my work.

Tempo: What’s your creative process?

Amira: I am mostly inspired by colour itself. I draw inspiration from textiles, fashion, photography and nature, and I am always looking for the colours that inspire me and lift my spirit. I paint everyday usually. I like to start early in the morning after a cup of tea or coffee when my energy is high.


I consider myself an intuitive painter and often times my process starts days, weeks even, before I reach my studio. I collect my reactions to random colours for a period of time until I feel I have gathered enough inspiration to paint. Once I reach my canvas, the colours really take over and I respond to what’s in front of me. I usually work without references for my abstract paintings. For my camels, and other subjects, I try to inject as much colour as possible into a piece without it being overwhelming. It’s a challenging but fun balance.

I really love the versatility of acrylic paints. I started out painting in oils, and still love the texture oil paints achieve. But acrylics give me the flexibility I need to really express myself. I never planned on painting in the colourful abstract manner that I do today, but once I moved to Abu Dhabi, I felt that I needed more colour in my life – I craved it.

Tempo: Which artists inspire you?

Amira: Rothko. DeKooning. Frankenthaler. Joan Miller. These are my favourite from the Abstract Expressionist era. Today, I continue to be inspired by many contemporary abstract artists in Australia and the US. It’s an exciting time to do what I love!

AmiraRahim-5Tempo: What’s a normal day in your art studio like?

Amira: I like to start early in the morning. Sometimes right after sunrise when the light is pouring into my studio. I paint for a few hours usually listening to a podcast of some upbeat music. It’s like a daily exercise routine for me. I don’t even think about it. I just know that when the day ends, I would hope to have created a painting or start a painting that excites me and leaves me wanting more. The most fulfilling part of my career is seeing my art in the hands of a happy collector and seeing my paintings on the walls of beautiful homes. It’s the best part of being an artist in my opinion.

Tempo: What are you working on right now?

I am working on building a portfolio of large, high-energy abstract paintings with lots of texture, colour, and even some suggestions of figures. It will take months to create, but I am so excited to finally put the many ideas that I have onto large canvas.

“I just know that when the day ends, I would hope to have created a painting or start a painting that excites me and leaves me wanting more.”

Tempo: And your future plans?

Amira: At the moment, I am looking for galleries and stockists in the Emirates to represent my work. I think there is a real need for colorful, contemporary art here in the UAE and I am happy to be recognized as an artist fit for the job. It’s a joy to show up to work every morning and this is the first “job” I can ever say that for.

Tempo: And your message to aspiring artists?

Amira: Paint often. Take risks. Know yourself.

By Vera Rosales