The latest exhibition at Mawaheb from Beautiful People, a studio for adults with determination is inspired by abstract expressionism but with a difference. The show titled Abstract features paintings and sculptures inspired by the work of women artists who were part of this influential art movement.

The abstract expressionism movement originated in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. Turning their attention from the reality outside to the world within, American artists sought to express their emotions through their art with a special emphasis on the spontaneous creative act. The artists associated with this movement such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko are very well-known. But what remains largely unknown is that many great women artists were also part of this movement. These included Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner (who were married to Willem de Kooning and Pollock respectively), Helen Frankenthaler, African-American artist Alma Thomas, Perle Fine and many others.

One of the paintings on show at Abstract, an exhibition by artists from the Mawaheb from Beautiful People art studio

In a world dominated by male artists, gallerists, critics and opinion makers, the work of these women was ignored or underplayed because of their gender or overshadowed by the success of their famous husbands. The Mawaheb artists did extensive research on the work and individual styles of these women and were inspired to create their own paintings and sculptures. “These women artists have been overlooked and marginalised by the art world, and they had to fight hard for social change, acceptance and recognition of their work. Our artists were inspired by them because they are doing the same. They have also not been given the recognition they deserve, and they also want to be accepted by the world as they are. This exhibition aims to bring these artists out from the shadows to the forefront, to salute their talent and potential and to give them their due recognition,” Wemmy de Maaker, founder of Mawaheb says.

“We are happy that some of these artworks were exhibited at the Dubai Airports, where they were seen and appreciated by a large and diverse audience; and we are grateful to Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, for consenting to be the guest of honour at the opening of this show at our studio,” she adds.

The abstract expressionists used techniques such as mark making, flinging paint onto the canvas, gestural brush strokes and bold bright colours. The Mawaheb artists have used similar techniques, stepping out of their comfort zone to express themselves confidently, freely and spontaneously. Their artworks are a riot of colours and gestures and charged with emotion.

“It was a great learning experience for all of us to research the work of these very talented but less known artists. We hope that this show by our artists will help to create a better understanding and appreciation of the contribution of these women artists in an important art movement of the twentieth century,” Gulshan Kavarana, art instructor at Mawaheb says.

Abstract will run at Mawaheb from Beautiful People art studio, villa 11 in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood until March 10.