Abstract Expressionism and Figurative Abstract: An Interview With Artist Sheeba Khan.

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Agatha K. Rokicki for The World Of Art Gallery.

August 15, 2020.

Sheeba Khan is a multiple award-winning, international abstract artist based in Dubai.

Her art moves deeply and inspires as each piece she creates has a life and a story of its own. Very passionate, very colorful, yet with a sense of balance, her work oftentimes is said to resemble that of Jackson Pollock's.

Her abstract art is mesmerizing. It captures your eye, your attention and most importantly your heart. “...there are so many shapes to be discovered. From faces to bodies, to forms,

to animals, to pure abstract design, the paint comes alive with visual stimuli…Pure genius is the mind that creates this art” - Mac McGovern.

“The beauty of her artwork is undeniable and begs to be shared with the world” - Tara Barnett.

Introducing Sheeba Khan...

Portrait of Sheeba Khan.

Image courtesy of the Artist.

Sheeba working on “Pink Forest.”

Image courtesy of the Artist.

Sheeba Khan - An Artist.

What does it mean to you?

It means 're-incarnation.' A rebirth of sorts. Art saved me and gave me a new life. People who knew me in my past life, would never have believed, if someone said I was an artist. I am a living miracle of God, and I started painting suddenly only 7 years ago.

Can you please tell us something about your educational background?

I am a high school drop out. I spent the first ten years of my life in the deepest, densest jungle in India, where I was home-schooled. My father owned 500 acres of land where he established his own 'kingdom.' From an uninhabited jungle to a thriving village that was built around our home, he taught me to fish, hunt and act like a jungle princess. My mother home-schooled us but deep down she was afraid that me and my siblings needed to go back to the real world. My father knew 'the princess' wouldn't fit into the society. So we were uprooted (much to my disappointment), and taken to the city where I finished highschool before getting married to my childhood sweetheart while I was still in my teens!

Did any of your teachers have an influence on your art career?

I had never picked up a brush up until that fateful day, seven years ago. I am a self-taught artist. In fact, when I was in school I would sneak out of the art class and go pick mangoes from the trees with little kids, LOL...And get chased by the surly, hot tempered caretaker of the garden. Sorry to disappoint you, I don't have the expected stories about professors and art teachers who inspired me but I do give credit to the silent influence of the incredible layered beauty of my surroundings while I was in the jungle. I credit the freedom I experienced while roaming the endless expanse of my estate.

"Her Reign."

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Image courtesy of the Artist.

Did you have a favourite artist while you were at school?

I was never exposed to any art history or the art legends in my formative years, (which is good in a way because I wasn't influenced by anyone and it gave me a chance to find my own style through trial and error), but when people saw my art they kept saying my work reminded them of Jackson Pollock's. I had to Google him to find out who he was. I was amazed by the similarity in style. In fact, I freaked out. I have never seen his work and yet I have the same style and we paint alike? How is it possible? Then I became a huge fan. I went to Italy to receive an award and was fortunate enough to see the best of Pollock, Willem De Kooning, Kline and all the great American artists. I went to the Vatican and all the places sacred to artists and saw Raphael, Michel Angelo and many, many legends' works. It was an art pilgrimage of sorts. I was just absorbing this potent, life-changing stream of inspiration.

What about a period in art history? Is there one that you really like?

Since I had never been exposed to art history, I had to catch up. And my time in Italy visiting cathedrals, museums, galleries was a crash course. I witnessed almost every movement in art history. I love every period because it defines the art at that time and takes art a notch above. I love how the mavericks, the square pegs in round holes challenge the norms and create their own movement. Baroque, Neoclassicism, Impressionism have their own charm but Abstract Expressionism is what I took to instantly.

Would you agree that art should be introduced to our lives from early childhood?

Sure...But I would never impose it on kids if that's not their thing. I would have run away if I was forced to sit through an art class. It just came to me when it was meant to be. However, art is a wonderful way of expressing yourself and at that age, kids are remarkably imaginative. They are not controlled by logic and can let their imagination run wild and free. As we grow up, the pressures of society, our obsession with logic dulls the mind. We become less imaginative and sucked into a life that has been scripted by society (or our overbearing parents).

The thing I love the most about art is that it unites people. It makes us tolerant. It feeds our imagination and challenges us to look at things differently. It is the missing piece that connects us back to our childhood when we were free, happy and not straitjacketed.


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Image courtesy of the Artist.

You’ve mentioned receiving an award in Italy...What are the art fairs you participated in?

I began with the World Art Dubai, United Arab Emirates (April 2017) followed by 4th Geoje International Art Exhibition, Love and Inspiration, in South Korea (2018), then Group Exhibition, Montclair Spring Art Walk, Monteclair, NJ, USA (May 2018), New York Art fair in 2019, USA,

and Artisti 19 International Art Fair, Milan, Italy.

What did they all mean to you?

They felt great because they gave me the platform to showcase my art to a vast audience in different parts of the world. And to be amongst some of the best contemporary artists was a validation of my growth as one.

What about the awards?

I have received 4 awards so far... The International Prize Caravaggio Great Master Of Art, Milan Italy (December 2018), Premio Internazionale D’arte Fondazione Costanza, Madrid, Spain, (January 2019), International Prize Botticelli, Borghese Palace, Florence, Italy (February 2019)

and International Artist of the Year, Mantova, Italy (June 2019). I was also featured as one of the 50 top artists in the international ARTISTI: The Artbook of International Contemporary Art. I was chosen out of thousands of artists to be among the top 50 contemporary artists from around the world in March 2019.

As an Artist, you showcase your work through figurative abstract and abstract expressionism. How did it all begin?

The story of how I got into art...No...let me correct art got into me is stuff fairytales are made of. I was never meant to be an artist, at least not as per the script I was handed when I was born. All my life, at school, growing up, getting married and giving birth to two boys while I was still in my teens and right up until 7 years ago, I was never even remotely interested in art. I had never drawn a line or picked up a brush. But during a very dark period in our lives when my husband suffered massive setbacks with his start up after giving up an amazing senior management career that he had for 20 years, I went emotionally bankrupt. We were completely and utterly wiped out. I would lay in bed at night and worry incessantly. The stress really got to me and I broke down. I would often end up in the ER with panic attacks and I thought I was dying. My doctor prescribed some heavy anti-depressants. That night, when I came home, I made a life-changing decision. I decided to flush the meds down the toilet and fight my demons. The next morning, I was rummaging through the kitchen cabinet and I saw a dusty, dirty old olive oil jar. It once had a label, it was full of oil and it was useful. Look at it now... Suddenly, it reminded me of my own life. Kids are all grown up. I have no purpose in life. No path to follow. I found some old paints in the store room and I began painting on the bottle. It was nothing spectacular but it made me feel whole again. I kept painting bottles and soon a posh bar/lounge decided to showcase my bottles. And I began selling them. My caring, supportive husband got me a tiny canvas. I remember how terrified I was to paint on it. I waited for weeks. My husband, in a very tender voice said "Imagine this is a flattened bottle. Now paint on it the same way you paint on bottles." I am glad I listened to him. The canvases grew bigger. So did I. And the rest is history. I thought I had given that old olive jar a new life, when in reality, it gave me a new life... That's how I was reborn.