Accomplished Qatari artist Noor Abuissa tells Amal Sarhan about her artistic process, the pleasure and calm of Islamic geometrical designs and the significance of artistic endeavour.

Noor strives to highlight the importance of Arab designs and the versatility of colour in her work. In September last year, her work was exhibited at the Fire Station under the title Abstraction: Subverting Reality, other works were shown in Mathaf as part of a group exhibition and, more recently, her pieces have been installed at The Ned, Raffles Doha and the Waldorf Astoria Lusail Doha. She was also among the artists who designed custom water bottles for the World Cup.

Taking inspiration from Islamic geometry, Noor creates sharp abstract shapes filled with evocative colours that add life and dimension to her work, which has spanned across the artboard (so to speak), from paintings to wall and floor sculptures, paper collage and design objects, sometimes using different mediums in the same pieces.

“What I love most about abstract geometry is the way it makes you feel grounded, as if quieting the chaos of everyday life and allowing you to be inspired by the simplicity of point, line, and plane,” she explains.

“Through my practice I’ve been working on bringing this form of art into the contemporary sphere, injecting it with colour and deconstructing the shapes, allowing it to be appreciated from so many different aspects.”

Even as a teenager, Noor was interested in art practising still-life drawing and plein-air painting of architecture and landscapes. She was drawn to topics such as the history of art and the origins of different art forms and was especially fascinated by the vigour of colour and its grounding quality. “I remember always getting lost in the process of art, using it as a way to get into my own thoughts, inducing a time when the world stands still and I have space to focus my mind,” she says. “On the other hand, I also vividly remember the times when I would find art challenging and would feel frustrated, only to realise that I had gone through a transformative experience by stepping outside of my comfort zone and had learned something new in the process.”

Though she was only interested in art as a personal practice, when the time came for college, she chose to study the craft and find a way to express her identity as a Middle Eastern woman, investing in further practice with Islamic geometrical designs, something that is “uniquely true to our region”. She graduated in 2012 from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and, after returning to Qatar, found herself working with Qatar Museums to establish the first Fire Station Artists in Residence programme.

“I learned so much about the museums and how the art world operates from a bird’s eye view,” she says. “It was also a great team and I was so lucky to meet likeminded people.” She began to realise she could learn from her own work and challenge herself further saying: “In the end, they say that ‘art does not exist unless it is shared, it requires both artist and audience’.”

She describes her proudest moment when she was approached by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to design the inaugural Doha Forum Award. “Not only was it an honour to create such an important award, but it was also somehow a monumental moment for me as a multidisciplinary artist, to witness my work transcend the boundaries of traditional gallery spaces and gain recognition for having its own identity, adaptable in different settings.”

Most of Noor’s work now comes from commissions and requests, which pose new challenges to her creativity and encourage her to push her boundaries. “The brief would depend on what space the artwork would live in and it’s a process of responding to the space and at the same time pushing it to bring out the best in the artwork,” she explains. She believes art is ‘integral’ to human existence and contends that it is not limited to artists but should be encouraged as a wider practice and a ‘way of documenting life’.

Citing her family as her biggest supporters Noor says she feels “incredibly fortunate to always have them cheering me on, pushing my boundaries and looking at my work with a critical eye, propelling my development further.” Having exhibited around the world, including in Qatar, Russia and Germany, she is working on new avenues including experimenting with ceramics and marble. ✤