London-based artist Maysaloun Faraj discusses ‘Teatime and Dates with Matisse’ painting

DUBAI (Arabnews): Iraqi artist Maysaloun Faraj discussed with Arab News a painting she produced during COVID-19 lockdown titled “Teatime and Dates with Matisse.”

From the age of five or six, I remember always being the center of attention when it came to creativity and art — at home and at school. It was always a subject I loved and people around me encouraged it, because they saw something special. 

I have a relationship with painting through color. I just immerse myself in color; it’s my language of love. 

I think any artist essentially reflects what their experiences are. My experience — being born in the US and living my formative years in Baghdad, then coming to live in London for the past 45 years — informs the work, whether painting or sculpture. 

I kind of look to the past but with an eye on the future. I look to my heritage, but in a very contemporary way. 

“Teatime with Dates and Matisse” is a large work, done with oils on canvas. It comes from my series “Home,” which was created during lockdown. I didn’t have access to my studio, so, like so many people, I worked from home. It prompted me to draw what I was seeing day to day in my living room. I was really observing things that I took for granted. 

The painting features my glass coffee table, which has on it the main subjects: a pot with orchids, a silver tray with a teapot and cup, a green glass vase, two ceramics that I made, and a book about Henri Matisse that always sits there. 

It wasn’t until lockdown that I discovered that Matisse and Van Gogh produced their most iconic work when they were in confinement. Van Gogh was in an asylum and Matisse was in a wheelchair. Under the table, there is our carpet and in the distance it looks out onto the River Thames. You can clearly see the geometry of my work. 

I think I try to be positive. There is beauty. There is love. It hopefully touches people in a very personal and colorful way. When someone looks at my painting, I want them to feel joy.