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Mattar Bin Lahej

Mattar Bin Lahej is a self-taught artist, he is an active painter, sculptor and photographer who has been recognised over the last few years through his participation in exhibitions both locally and internationally, such as

Mattar Bin Lahej is a self-taught artist, he is an active painter, sculptor and photographer who has been recognised over the last few years through his participation in exhibitions both locally and internationally, such as Abu Dhabi Art and the Berlin Art Fair, Germany, as well as in Morocco and Kuwait. He has prepared, organised and managed several workshops and nurtures young talent through his annual kids summer camps ‘More than Art’, which are held at his own gallery, Marsam Mattar. Mattar’s gallery is an official sponsor of The 33rd Annual Exhibition of the Emirates Fine Arts Society held in Sharjah. We’ve had a quick chat with the artist to pick his brain about his work.

Tell us more about your work and Marsam Mattar.
As a painter, I try to develop a special style of my own, to do this I utilise many different mediums including oil, acrylic and watercolour. Lately my focus has been on sculptures, I am trying to rebuild sculpture as an art form here in UAE; however, I am less traditional in my approach, instead of using common materials like bronze or wood, I sculpt in stainless steel.

As an idea, Marsam Mattar was conceived in 1992, but it was only officially launched in 2003. The centre offers a variety of training courses and cultural activities for various social segments and is the first Arabic art centre in the UAE 100% run by Arabic artists, aiming at supporting new talents and creating an art agenda of the highest calibre around the year. Marsam Mattar is committed to organizing periodic shows and art competitions that contribute to enriching the artistic movement of the UAE. We want to give the Arab community a comfortable and convenient environment, a multitude of technical services in diverse fields, and a non-traditional art center run by passionate lovers of art.

“…venturing into visual arts is a one-way ticket. Once you are there, you can never leave”

What can you tell us about the art scene in the UAE?
Visual arts have been present in the UAE for decades, as manifested by the establishment of the Emirates Fine Art Society in 1980. In less than 3 years of its establishment, the society launched its annual exhibition, which is in its 33rd edition today. Every year, the art scene in the UAE reaches new horizons, especially in visual arts. These advancements are what spawned these amazing artworks and what compelled the wise leadership in this country to extend its unlimited support to the art society. Quality wise, observers can easily appreciate the great developments in the art scene over the past 35 years. I believe that we are on the right track towards more development and success. Art in the UAE is similar to all countries, as usual you find art everywhere, here we truly have – international art, we find ourselves lucky as artists because we are living between Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and we learn from art different scenes in the region.

What compelled you to start a career in art?
Since my childhood, I have always felt that I had a unique artistic talent and I felt a duty to develop this talent. I hope I succeeded in doing this, thanks to many factors pertaining to personal determination on one hand and encouragement and support on the other. I prefer to stay away from group shows, I have my own feeling and I wish to express them myself, for this reason I find myself compelled to work alone and express myself as an individual. Language and movement is a huge part of my art and I am still learning from life’s challenges; the journey is on-going and it is mine.

What advice woud you give to the new artists?
Let me tell you one thing, venturing into visual arts is a one-way ticket. Once you are there, you can never leave, nor can you stay in one place. Success in such a creative career requires constant planning and a visionary approach, as well as knowledge and culture. These are the tools for achieving one’s dreams in this domain.

My advice for the new generation is to always count on more research, knowledge and determination. They need to work on their talent and never submit to fear or worry when venturing into new projects. Art in the UAE is an emerging scene, but it is growing and getting better by the year. This is what I want to leave for the world, the vision for a future whereby art is available and a pathway to find yourself and your voice.

What is in future plans for Marsam Mattar?
I have created a special camp for children, it takes two months to complete and the idea is to produce a generation ingrained with an artistic passion and with the idea stamped in their minds that art can be a fulfilling and prosperous career choice. It is not enough for us that we are the first 100% Arabic staffed art workshop, with a list of accomplishments that include courses, workshops, exhibitions and joint ventures with schools and universities. We are always on a quest to find something new.

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