The Art movement of this generation is often hard to discern. With massive shoes to fill after the classical era of Monet and Da Vinci to the more abstract genius of Warhol; contemporary artists often find it hard to carve a niche out for themselves. Originality is a risky route, and imitation equally so with the risk of being tagged a copycat.

But Khawla Al Marri, an independent artist from Dubai has proven that there’s a distinct difference between ‘copycat couture’ and injecting influences into original thought. Khawla’s ‘fresh vision’ involves adopting and learning from the much-renowned works of Warhol, Van Gogh and Picasso, and tastefully merging it with a taste of life in her native UAE.

Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, Khawla was exposed to a variety of visual art elements such as the graphics on the music cassettes covers, brightly coloured posters, outlandish graffiti, and even visual effects used in music videos. As a result, her artwork is a unique infusion of everything culture, movies, fashion, music and thoughts.

Pop Art being her ‘genre’ of expertise, Khawla’s recent entry into the Emirati art scene is creating quite a buzz. Khaleejesque managed to catch up with this budding new artist for a tete-a-tete.

Tell us a little bit about your 'genre' of art; if in fact you feel that it falls under a particular category.

I’d have to say that what I do falls under the Pop Art category; primarily because it’s easily observed, understood and in essence, limitless. Pop Art revolves around the theme ‘popular culture,’ and is what the concept of my collection is based; that is, pieces of art that depict parts of our life.

I envision and create art from a different perspective. I combine Pop Art techniques with the culture of the Middle East. I'm trying to create something different with my art, and at the same time learn from the techniques of French artistry and other famous painters.

When did you realize that this was the route you wanted to take, and how easy/difficult was it establishing yourself as an artist?

Well, I've been dabbling in Art for years now, but in the past year I realized that this was something I had the potential to take seriously, and possibly even to the next level. My intention was to get noticed as an Emirati and Middle-Eastern artist. It is a great challenge to establish oneself here, but I’ve noticed that the Middle East is now coming around to embracing art. This in itself is an "encouragement push" for all Arab artists, and not just myself.

Fashion and Life in the Emirates seem to be underlying themes in most of your artwork, with Van Gogh seeming to play a major influence. Am I right? And if so, is there a reason behind this selection of influences?

I do love to learn from others, especially the greats of the likes of Van Gogh and Warhol. And as I mentioned earlier, my intention with most of my collections is to add to them whatever it is that has influenced my knowledge, and to incorporate symbols from my home-land. Not just famous symbols, but also to paint images influenced by our daily life in Dubai; namely music, fashion, people and of course our beautiful surroundings.

Any other 'inspirations'/mentors (both internationally and locally) you would like to acknowledge as playing a vital role in steering your Art direction?

Toulouse Lautrec's work has made quite an impression on me in the past few years; so much so that I'm considering incorporating his technique into my upcoming art projects. His artwork is always bursting with life and has that "French touch" I’m particularly attached to.

In your opinion, do you think artists need to be born gifted, or schooled that way?

I believe that there are some people who are born artists and others who might not know that they're gifted yet. In fact, I think Art schools should be a must in every town, and that Art should be schooled as an entirely separate subject; not just categorised as a "hobby"! Art isn't always gifted; it is also something that is practiced.

Have you exhibited anywhere, and if not are there any plans in the pipeline?

I have participated in group showings earlier, but never a solo exhibition. I do hope to exhibit sometime in 2011, and am really positive about the coming year.

What would be your advice to any others planning on venturing down the Art route?

Embracing your Art wholly and working hard will always take artists (especially beginners) places in the end. There are two choices that an artist encounters when it comes to creating art; the artist can either paint something cliché and ‘normal,’ or create a piece which is ‘simply different’; a piece of artwork that really stands out!

You can contact Khawla at kayforkhawla@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @KhawlaMarri, or visit her blog for daily updates www.khawlamarri.blogspot.com

– Shaahima Fahim

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