Arts & Culture

Meet the artist building safe spaces through his art

Mohammed Al-Attar is part of the new generation of the country's artists who are fiercely expressive.

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By Sekka

Digital artist Mohammed Al-Attar. Image: Courtesy of Mohammed Al-Attar.

If there is one Omani digital artist who should be on your radar these days, it’s Mohammed. Better known as “Mimoon_art” on social media, the 29-year-old lawyer by day, artist by night is part of the new generation of Omani artists, like Abdulaziz Alhosni, Mujahid Al Malki and Mahmood Al Zadjali, who are fiercely expressive. His artworks, which creatively express universally exprienced human fragility, vulnerability and feelings of perpetual foreigness and alienation, speak to many of us, have been featured in the Khaleeji Art Museum, the Oman Art Association, Sharjah’s Fikra Design Studio, and, most recently, Oman’s Stal Gallery.

We speak to the young artist about the beginnings of his journey into the world of art, his sources of inspiration, both the importance and challenges of expressing vulnerability through art, how he fosters a safe space through his art, and find out how he balances his busy law and art careers. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

A self-portrait by young Omani artist Mohammad Al-Attar. Artwork by Mohammed Al-Attar.

When and how did your journey into the world of art start? And what inspired it?

Mohammed Al-Attar: As a child I used to spend a lot of time in front of my TV. My passion started there as I had- and I still have- a very wide imagination, which made me want to bring out the creatures and the universes inside my mind into reality. My inspiration was what I watched and my toys.

Where did you get your art education?

Mohammed Al-Attar: I am self-taught. However, I have to mention that digitally I learned a lot from the Emirati Artist Mohamed Al Jneibi.

How would you describe your art style?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Diverse! I like to give myself no restrictions when it comes to style, and I enjoy exploring and experimenting with different styles.

What artistic mediums have you explored to date? Which do you prefer? Why? Which do you hope to explore in the future? Why?

Mohammed Al-Attar: I have a soft spot for water colors. I also enjoy drawing with blue dry ink pens (they are my best friends when I draw in court while I wait for my hearings). I experimented a bit with acrylics, and I would really want to experiment more with gouache paint and oils. I also have a passion for paper crafts and I really want to mix some of the stuff I have already created, as I believe mixing different mediums would help me to express myself better and it would also bring joy to people when they see the work.

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What’s the reason behind your nickname “Mimoon”?

Mohammed Al-Attar: As a kid I alway believed that I had the power of the moon and my name is Mohammed so my first the first letter of my name in Arabic is “Meem.” By that time “MeeMoon ” was too long so I turned it into “Mimoon.” As I grew up, I kept the nickname as it’s a part of me that I hold so dear.

Though Mohammed Al-Attar is self-taught, he says that he also learned from Emirati digital artist Mohammed Al Jenibi, depicted here . Artwork by Mohammed Al-Attar.

What inspires you to create art?

Mohammed Al-Attar: My thoughts and emotions are my strongest drive. I love nature and my art and colors are influenced by it. My people and my community also are a big inspiration and motivation.

Introspection and experiencing darkness are common themes in your work. Tell us a bit more about the reason behind that.

Mohammed Al-Attar: When I started expressing my thoughts and emotions through art, I started to break something I was living with for more than 20 years of my life, which is that “we are not allowed to feel”, and that “being able to feel is considered weakness.” I broke out of that shell, and I wanted to be vocal [about it], so I carried the message “Allow yourself to feel” as I aim for my art to be a safe space for anyone who is going through something and they are having difficulty in expressing that so they can find a safe space where they can relate, and know that they are not alone in what they are going through.

How important do you think it is to be for an artist to be vulnerable in their art?

Mohammed Al-Attar: For me, art is an expressive tool, the more vulnerable I am in my art, the better I connect with others through it. I highly believe that art is there for us to communicate with no words, and so I believe that being vulnerable is very important.

The 29-year-old artist often feels like an outsider. Artwork by Mohammed Al-Attar.

Who is your target viewer ? And what do you hope they get from your artworks?

Mohammed Al-Attar: I draw to connect with others through my art, so my target audience is any soul that has a willingness to connect with others. For me, my art is a safe space for any thought and emotion. So, I aim for it to be a place where others can relate with no judgment, for them to feel safe and not alone in the emotions and thoughts they are facing.

Have you faced any challenges to expressing your vulnerability through your art and on your social media pages?

Mohammed Al-Attar: I believe the biggest challenge was sharing artworks that contain very personal emotions. But the moment I broke out of that fear I realized that my art was being heard more loudly and clearly. Another challenge was being a male in a society that has built an image that masculinity means we have to be emotionless. I am breaking out of that stereotype, which is very challenging as not everyone is accepting of it.

“For me, art is an expressive tool, the more vulnerable I am in my art, the better I connect with others through it.”

How do you deal with negative comments towards your art online ?

Mohammed Al-Attar : I delete the comment, block the account and complete my day with grace, as I believe these negative energies should be not allowed to get consumed by us.

You often depict yourself, or another person, holding his own self or communicating with it. Can you tell us more about that?

Mohammed Al-Attar: It’s a coping mechanism that I’ve been using; I made a persona for my darkest self, that helped me to learn to change the emotions I have towards him. Instead of hating and fearing that side of me, I’ve learnt to accept it and love it. That helped me to learn to accept and love myself and my imperfections, which has led to the development of a stronger and more confident version of myself.

Mohammed Al-Attar aims to create a safe space for others through his artwork. Artwork by Mohammed Al-Attar.

Who are the people you illustrate? Are they based on people in real life?

Mohammed Al-Attar: People who are dear to my heart and the ones I admire. But, I also draw fictional characters created from my imagination.

You sometimes say that you come from another planet. What has made you feel like an outsider?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Being genuinely and effortlessly yourself is something that is considered weird and unusual, while in reality what is weird is to live to please everyone and forget yourself. Being called weird for being true to myself made me feel like that. However, I have to admit that I have found souls that are vibrating so well with mine and that made me feel like I belong more.

Mohammed Al-Attar’s works often deal with themes of introspection and experiencing darkness. Artworks by Mohammed Al-Attar.

What other themes do you enjoy exploring in your work?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Transformation and joy, as I tend to live in the moment when it comes to joy, so I tend to not reflect it in my art often. However, the few times I have the colors that I’ve used have brought joy to those who’ve seen the work. I also began exploring frame by frame animation lately, and the satisfaction of seeing my work moving is something I never experienced before.

What is your art process like?

Mohammed Al-Attar: It’s never the same. There are times when an idea has cooked in my brain for a while, then I start to sketch and develop it until it becomes a finished artwork. Other times, I just begin using any tool in front of me and KAPAAAAM and artwork is done!

“For me, my art is a safe space for any thought and emotion. So, I aim for it to be a place where others can relate with no judgment, for them to feel safe and not alone in the emotions and thoughts they are facing.”

How long does it take you to create one artwork, on average?

Mohammed Al-Attar: It takes from three to eights hours on average. It can be much less or much more depending on the energy, the inspiration and the amount of details.

Regional and non-regional artists you look up to…

Mohammed Al-Attar: Mohamed Al Jenibi is an artist that I always look up to. As for non-regional artists, I look up to music bands like “PVRIS” and “MUNA” as they create music for the sake of creation and not for the sake of pleasing others, which makes their works very true and transparent so it can easily reach out to others.

Regional artists you think people should follow and know about…

Mohammed Al-Attar : Mohamed Al Jneibi, Ruqaia Al Balushi, Bashair Al Balushi, Safa Al Balushi, Marwa Al Bahrani, Haneen Al Moosawi and Mays Al Moosawi.

Social media presence has become very important for artists to become known and thrive. How do you think fellow Khaleeji and Arab artists can distinguish their artworks in a world where the number of artists seems to be increasing everyday on social media?

Mohammed Al-Attar: I alway tell myself this: “Don’t be afraid of sharing your works.” Whenever there is an opportunity in front of you, take it, and allow it to challenge you as it will help you to expand and to discover sides of you you’ve never known of!

As a person who practices digital art, where do you think the place of digital art is today?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Locally, it’s not where it should be; it’s looked down upon. Internationally, it’s going to big places with the rise of NFTs.

Mohammed Al-Attar frequently depicts himself and others holding smaller versions of themselves. Artwork by Mohammed Al-Attar.

Why do you think digital art is looked down upon?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Because it’s new compared to other art mediums. Anything people are not used to, or haven’t experienced, or tried is usually feared and looked down upon.

What are some of the challenges of being a digital artist? Do you think digital artists face challenges that differ from the challenges of other kinds of artists?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Facing an art block, and working on something only to discover that another artist has posted something with a similar concept while you are working on yours! Also, a lot of people think that digital art is like a magic tool that with one click you get an artwork done.Finding a good printing place to print your works can also be very challenging, and pricing your work while adding the printing cost can be hard sometimes. The fact that a lot of art gets stolen and reused for businesses without any permission. Recognition or payment is also a challenge.

How does your country Oman inspire your art?

Mohammed Al-Attar: The beautiful nature, the diversity of culture and the rich history makes a very astonishing combination that fuels my inspiration.

How does your career as a lawyer affect your art, if at all? How do the two come together?

Mohammed Al-Attar: Long hours waiting in courts for my cases’ hearings have turned into tiny art sessions in. Lawyers now know me as “the lawyer that draws.” Art is the breather from all the stress and tension I get from my job. It’s not easy to balance them, but if you work hard enough and prioritize your stuff you’ll be able to do both. It’s like my day job helps me to self fund my art.

What are your future plans and goals?

Mohammed Al-Attar : I would like to be fully financially stable through art so I can build an art space that welcomes all different talents.

To find out more about Mohammed Al-Attar, visit his page on Instagram.


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