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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

Award-winning Emirati artist Moosa Al Halyan on his love of drawing horses

We visit Moosa Al Halyan, one of the 15 artists representing the UAE in the Venice Biennale to find out more about his practice.
Moosa Al Halyan poses for a photograph during an interview at the Marsam Mattar Art gallery in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
Moosa Al Halyan poses for a photograph during an interview at the Marsam Mattar Art gallery in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

Who discovered Moosa Al Halyan the artist?

I always say that schools are the place where hidden talents and skills are discovered. In my case, I discovered my passion for drawings in my art class. However, I owe my success to the Emirates Fine Arts Society, and to my fellow artists, Mohamed Yousif, Abdul Raheem Salem, and Hassan Sharif, who have always been there for me, and encouraged me through my career as an artist.

When did you have your first exhibition?

In 1984, when I was 16, I first decided to share my work and participate in exhibitions. Since then, I have been all around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Spain, Oman, Bahrain, Sudan, and, of course, most recently to Venice.

You almost always choose to draw the horse. Can you tell us why?

The horse was, and still is, being used for transportation. So, primarily, the horse is a symbol of travelling. However, it is more than that, throughout history, the horse has been a loyal companion to mankind since the beginning of time. and therefore, I use this extraordinary animal to represent us. By choosing the animal, rather than the human himself, you can escape issues of discrimination and racism.

Who is your audience and what messages are you sending?

All of my drawings have found love and admiration from different people all around the world. I am simply representing a state of being. Whether it is happiness or misery, my drawings hold deep emotions. Most people find themselves attracted to the drawing that represents their feelings at that moment. You can find yourself drawn more towards one than another, depending on the circumstances that you are currently living in.

How important is it for you to be recognised for your work?

Thanks to God, I have won several awards throughout my career. In 2006 and 2013, I won the award for the most creative employee, in Dubai Government’s Excellence Programme, which I am very proud of. I have also won several awards for designing logos and graphic designs. I am proud of all my achievements, but winning is not the end to creativity; any victory is actually a responsibility because it forces you to keep your standards and creativity up to a certain level.

How do you feel about participating in the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale?

I would like to thank Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi for the ­opportunity; it gave me a chance to be surrounded by an amazing group of artists. I am very honoured. Also, 22 of my drawings are being displayed in this exhibition, and the feedback is ­overwhelming.

Finally, if you were to draw a self-portrait, how would you depict yourself?

It would definitely be a horse – just like how I love to see everyone else.

For more information about the UAE’s involvement in the Venice Biennale, visit www.nationalpavilionuae.org

EAlDhaheri@thenational.ae