Mohamed Khalid was Destined to be an Artist

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Mohamed Khalid was Destined to be an Artist
Yaseen Dockrat

Dubai-born artist Mohamed Khalid was encouraged throughout his life to take up a career in art. During his formative years in school he would create artworks that drew the attention of his teachers. When he completed school, he registered for an architectural degree in Dubai, but that pursuit lasted only a couple of months. While sitting at home, he would begin to create art in his room before joining the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship and Campus Art Dubai 7.0.

These days Khalid examines the materiality of everyday objects to bring out their metaphoric potential. He achieves this by fabricating receipts, playing with street cats and composing fictional tours, dissecting the ironies embedded in everyday surroundings. Here, he talks to YUNG about his exhibition Let Me Tell You Something, currently showing at Warehouse421.

Muhammed Khalid

What is your earliest memory of design, or art?

My earliest memory would be my art teachers encouraging me to pursue art competitions while growing up here in the UAE. I never thought to take art seriously as it never was a career.I am extremely thankful they believed in me and kept introducing me to techniques that were outside the curriculum.

Muhammed Khalid

What motivates your process or your impulse to create work?

There is an urge to be curious, an unnecessary amount. I break my work into a series of games, each work is a type of challenge that propels me into the next work. In fact, it is from that moment I conceived the work which now is a game/challenge/change in my everyday routine that motivates me to create.

If you could choose any artwork, which would it be and why?

Robert Ryman’s Untitled from 1965. Robert worked as a guard in the MoMA and that is where he met artists and became interested in art. As someone who worked as an art handler for institutions here, this was how I was introduced to contemporary art and learned from other artists.

Muhammed Khalid

At what point did you realise you want art to be your medium of expression?

It was a series of roadblocks, at first. I decided if I enjoyed art making then perhaps architecture would be the logical choice. However, I was too late to apply for international universities to consider me. So, I opted to pursue an architecture degree over here and would long to be doing what schools aboard were experimenting with. After a year I dropped out and would continue making artwork in my room. It was until found the UAE arts community that I immediately felt lighter, I felt like I finally had a say in who I could be.

What do you strive for as an artist? What form of recognition is important for you?

I strive to experience, artmaking has opened so many experiences for me especially as the UAE is progressing in the development of an inclusive and mature arts culture, I am grateful to be making art at such a pinnacle time. Recognition is perhaps that we all can be art making and should be art making so future generations can feel like there was always a space for art and it is encouraged.

Muhammed Khalid

What advice would you give to young artists?

Honestly, we live in a confusing time where you are labelled or able to label yourself as a certain type of artist, so if anything, please do not reason or rationalize why you are an artist. Just make. Do not think about what to make, where to show, or how many to make, just make and make. There will be a time and a place to think about these things just make a lot in the beginning.

Explain to us what you discovered in this search.

I discover systemic faults, missed connections, symbols, and possibilities. It is hard to answer this in a sentence. Each work is a story or a specific experience and from that, you will understand how to see the world like how I do. Everything has a story that can be traced, as humans, we are a bit removed from smaller experiences or noticing nuances it happens to me too sometimes. So, the practice is about putting effort and harnessing the eye to notice these connections and making works out of them.

What do connection and communication look like to you?

It changes, some days it is two cars sitting in traffic with mirroring plate numbers and on some days, it is a pair of keys left on a corner of a wall. Recently I found a pair of keys on a wall next to work, for a week I kept track of whether the key remained or did its owner finally take it. After a week of idleness, on a lunch break, I picked up the keys, made a copy and placed the key back. The next day the key was finally gone. I am not sure what this means in the story of the key, but I aim to make a copy of the copy and place the first copy on the wall and see if the owner claims this one too.

This is your first solo institutional exhibition resulting from Warehouse421’s Artistic Development Exhibition Program, can you tell us more about it?

It is a strange and new experience having a solo, you have a whole room to yourself, and every corner I look it is my works talking to each other in this space. I could not be more thankful for the support and opportunity Warehouse421 has provided me; this program is a great example of a grassroots initiative creating more space for our art to exist. Throughout the years I made works that would sit in my room and would hope to be picked for a group show, not for the work to sell but for a conversation to start. Through this program, I had a lot of conversations, made new networks, received new opportunities, and several messages talking about the work. But most importantly the team pushed my ideas and newer ways of thinking about what my work could be, outside of my home or the studio.

Let Me Tell You Something by Muhammed Khalid  is at 421 until December 25