Earlier this year, Salem Al Mansoori won an art competition that earned him a trip to the Van Cleef & Arpels school in Paris and a show in Dubai. Anna Seaman meets the designer
He is educated in computer engineering and works in telecommunications, but his mathematical mindset and a self-confessed obsession with aesthetics has led Salem Al Mansoori into the world of design and visual art.
“I love the rationality of engineering and I used to think that art was completely without any rules, which is OK but it is not for me, I enjoy things that are more structural.”
Nevertheless, he started experimenting with mathematical codes and applied them to a visual format and he is slowly but surely emerging as an artist in his own right.
Collective Narrative, his first exhibited piece, was in the 28th annual exhibition of the Emirates Fine Art Society in 2009. It was a computer programme that harvested tweets to make coherent, three-line stories, and his second work, Pattern Systems, was in the first edition of Mind in 2010, which was curated by Ebtisam Abdul Aziz at the Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre.
But somewhat of a shy character and not yet believing in himself as an artist, Al Mansoori returned to the comfort of academia and immersed himself in an MBA for the next two years.
It was only when he completed that and had spare time on his hands that he rekindled his passion for art.
“I started an Instagram account and began to photograph architecture and do meaningless things and I also started to work with weird 3-D shapes.”
Then, in 2012, his last minute application to Design Road Professional, a series of workshops in Dubai, London and Barcelona, was accepted and Al Mansoori was surrounded by professionals and was immersed in experimenting with his art.
“It was so inspiring. We visited so many designers and we got on so well as a group. It was amazing. The best thing was that it pushed me to work on my 3-D aesthetics.”
Al Mansoori had a table at Design Days Dubai in March and he also submitted a proposal for the forthcoming exhibition at Tashkeel called Metamorphosis. “The first thing I thought about when I heard this theme was a butterfly and the life cycle, so I imitated that with my shapes. I started with a basic 3-D shape and then made it more complex through different stages.”
Not only was Al Mansoori’s work accepted for the competition, which was launched by Van Cleef & Arpels in collaboration with Tashkeel and Design Days Dubai, but his was declared the winning entry.
As a prize, his work was showcased on the Van Cleef & Arpels platform at Design Days Dubai and he won a trip to Paris to visit L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, a school of jewellery located on La Place Vendôme in an 18th-century townhome.
Returning earlier this month, Al Mansoori says the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He took classes in jewellery design, art history and learnt how to work with gemstones.
“I wasn’t expecting to be able to get much from the classes because it is not really my thing, but surprisingly, I really enjoyed them. The instructors were excellent and the classes were really well -structured.”
Al Mansoori also says that although he never imagined himself in that field, he saw potential in jewellery design.
“It widened my horizons and gave me a taste of a different field,” he says. “In the end, I saw it as another design problem I could solve. Since I got back, I am obsessed with rings and I am thinking about doing a collection along those lines.
“The good thing about jewellery design is that it is not completely the creative side of art and not completely the structural side of design. I also see myself as somewhere in-between these two fields, so I found the trip a really interesting experience.”
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