Aliya Ahmad’s passion for moulding clay has led to recognition at a prestigious national art challenge, firmly planting her on the Kingdom’s buzzing creative scene.
Walking in to Aliya Ahmad’s home is like stepping into Bohemia; her living room is enhanced with many of her own quirky, yet poignant pieces. Aliya’s medium of expressing her creativity is through clay – firing it into forms and figures that she then paints with visions of the sights and scenes that inspire her.
Originally from Lahore, this is Aliya’s second stint in Bahrain, after having lived in Dubai and Canada with her banker husband and their four children. Pottery became a creative outlet a long time ago, when she was a hands-on mum to small kids.
A recent high point in her artistic journey was receiving the third prize at the 43rd Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition, which celebrates local artists. She says: “This year, expatriates were welcomed to participate, and the jury hailed from France and the UK. I wasn’t expecting to win, so it was an incredible surprise to have stood third from among so many seasoned artists.”
Aliya heard about the competition just five days before the submission deadline. With no time to create something new, she turned in three existing artworks. Collectively, they took third place. Her piece ‘Tolerance’ was inspired by her last visit to Lahore with painted, turbaned male faces alongside a singular veiled female visage. Aliya fashioned it from a redundant piece of rolled-out clay, as a second thought to recycling it.
A visit to the vivid blue-white islands of Greece served as fodder for ‘Behind the Scenes’, another one of her winning creations; and the third, called ‘Nature and Nurture’, denotes flora, fauna and femininity.
“My work is inspired by my surrounding and what it makes me feel. I love Picasso’s work, so you’ll see a lot of his influence in my paintings and figures. Earlier I would make three-dimensional glazed objects with a definite structure, but now I have started painting on clay. The form of the piece doesn’t matter to me so much as drawing and detailing my ideas on it,” she reflects.
This victory has earned Aliya repute as an artist to reckon with. She says gratefully: “It is very heartening to know that the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities takes initiatives to promote art here. The inclusion of non-Bahrainis this year was another step in that direction.”
She holds pottery workshops in art galleries to familiarise people with the basic technique of working with clay, enabling them to leave with a few pieces of fired and glazed artwork.
She also collaborates with interior design companies to create artworks for corporates and individuals. In addition she creates custom commissioned pieces. “People explain to me what they are looking for and I give them several options. We then discuss and finalise what makes them happy and I work on it. Each piece is individual, personal and hand-crafted by me. One of a kind,” she says.
Aliya is currently busy building a body of work for her upcoming solo exhibition at one of the well-known art galleries on the island. Commenting on the guiding factor for each exhibit, she says: “I am working with several pieces at the same time. I start out with a general idea of what I want to make, but I go with the flow – and more often than not, the end result is a happy outcome.”