Perspectives: Judge to Artist with Claudia Darius and Ali Almimar
The Arabian Horse Project presents
Perspectives: Judge to Artist
~ with Claudia Darius and Ali Almimar
By Claudia Darius and Lisa Abraham
Preface by Lisa Abraham
Ali and I have enjoyed a friendship for many years now and have shared an admiration for our individual endeavors in the business of Arabian horses. In 2017, we wrote our first article together which provided general insight into Ali’s work and motivations as an artist. However, my partnership with Claudia Darius, co-founder of The Arabian Horse Project, created an opportunity for an entirely different angle. The work of an equine judge and artist requires deep knowledge of conformation, including both muscular and skeletal details. Claudia has been judging Arabian horses internationally since 2003 and achieved ECAHO A-list status in 2009; she is an ECAHO instructor; and has been breeding horses since 1987. We felt it would make an interesting composition to compare perspectives from professionals of similar knowledge but used for different applications. On November 17th, the Arabian Horse World Championship will celebrate its 41st Anniversary in Paris -- and all three of us consider this event to be of utmost importance. Therefore, Claudia and I agreed that this article would be perfect to commemorate our feelings both for the show and for the talent of Ali Almimar.
The Conversation Begins…
Lisa: Ali, you have been exhibiting your work at the Arabian Horse World Championship in Paris since 2001, can you tell me why this show has been an important platform for you?
Ali: Not only is Paris the location of one of the most prestigious horse shows, but it is also the center of artistic enlightenment. As I am a frequent visitor to this magnificent city, I have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in the museums as well as meet with some of the finest painters in the world. For me, the World Championship has been a successful venue as it attracts an international audience, with many individuals who have expressed sincere admiration for my work.
Lisa: I have also noticed that you often approach Paris with a plan. For example, in 2015 you exhibited only three paintings—a very daring and risky strategy; and in 2017, you unveiled your work at Albadeia Stud (EGY) which was done in collaboration with the late Dr. Nasr Marei. Can you please share thoughts regarding your approach to Paris and what are your ideas for this year?
Ali: I haven’t heard a question this good for a while. First off, a proper exhibition takes a great deal more than assembling paintings to sell. A strategy that primarily considers quantity could lack depth and continuity, as well as create a superficial perception of the work and its purpose. An exhibition can offer an artist the versatility to create a theme in which the strengths within the body of work can be best portrayed, which is why I consider all perspectives. As in all other areas of business, it cannot be denied that the COVID-19 pandemic has also had unprecedented effects on art galleries around the world. However, as the world has reopened, I feel the exhibitions chosen for this year’s vendor gallery at the World Championship will be exceptional. Therefore, I am preparing special and unique work.
Judge to Artist: Claudia and Ali…
Claudia: To describe one’s ideal Arabian horse can be complicated and address many factors. However, from the perspective of conformation, my ideal is close to the standard. I appreciate the various qualities that are associated with different bloodlines, but I still want proper structure. My ideal also includes features that are intrinsic such as character and temperament. Arabian horses should be oriented to relationships with humans; they should be eager to learn; while strong and soft at the same time. Movement-wise, my ideal will make me feel goosebumps. Can you describe your ideal Arabian horse?
Ali: As conformation is considered, universal aesthetics must be harmoniously interrelated between parts of the equine structure. It is also true that horses display behavioral traits that can add to the overall impression. For example, how they socialize, which could include courage, playfulness, aloofness, fearfulness, and/or other qualities which engage our attention. Certainly, behavior can enhance the nuances of character. However, as these qualities are concerned, I try to look at the matter from another, more comprehensive side. As an artist, I am most interested in the relationships between people and horses. So my ideal will be one that gives me the highest degree of freedom to create and describe this relationship.
Claudia: Although it is not possible, we all hope to breed the perfect horse. Therefore, our breeding choices are a combination of compromises based on what qualities we feel we must have in our foals and those we can tolerate. However, as an artist, you can portray an animal exactly how you wish. In your work, do you have to make similar compromises? And what do you consider to be the most important features of the horse?
Ali: Eyes, eyes, eyes! So much emotion is conveyed through the eyes and, as an artist, I consider them to be one of the most significant characteristics of the Arabian horse. Through the eyes of these noble creatures, we can see and read who they are, similarly to how we perceive each other as human beings. Therefore, I often portray them according to the theme of the painting. Personally, I consider this feature to be of such importance that I hope there will one day be an initiative to consider show scoring points specifically for the eyes as they can represent the spirit and essence of a horse’s personality.
Claudia: As a breeder, I do not feel the color of the horse to be an important feature. Also, I do not have a preference and there is no color I dislike. I’m attracted to a horse by its overall impression, which includes color. Although, if I had to name a favorite, it would be flea-bitten grey, especially in mares. However, as a judge, I have found horses that are black or dark bay to be the most challenging to evaluate. In these horses, especially from a distance, it is far more difficult to see their refinement, such as in the eyes, nostrils, and in the coat itself. Can you tell us if you have a color of preference and how the color of the horse affects your work?
Ali: All colors in my equine paintings are distinctive. It is important to me that each color chosen affects and reflects in a way that is compatible with the lighting and setting. As I start a new composition, I first consider the general application of the colors and their relationships with each other and how they will be perceived. The actual colors of the horses are essential as they complement the scene and complete the story of a piece, or in some instances, an entire body of work.
Claudia: I would like to ask another question that addresses color. Your work has tremendous energy which comes through the subject matter, but also through your choice of colors. Can you describe your thoughts on color and how you use them to express yourself?
Ali: As I consider a new project, before commencing the actual work of painting, I take several factors into consideration. Color choice and symbolism are both very important. We live in a world of colors, and they have the power to affect our feelings and thoughts—maybe more than we realize. Because of this, I use color to evoke emotions and touch viewers. Although the choice of color and how it is used can define an artist, there are other factors that also contribute such as technique and materials used. Each of these has an influence on defining the work of an artist and how the work is interpreted.
Claudia: When Lisa and I initially discussed this article, my first curiosity was over the blue eye you use in your work. Can you share how it came to be a symbol in which you identify strongly?
Ali: The meaning and function of the blue mark or the turquoise stone have changed over time. However, it is still an important symbol in Middle Eastern cultures, particularly in Iraq. When worn, usually as an article of jewelry, it is believed to provide comfort, tranquility, and solace. However, in my own design which includes a golden circular shape, I use this symbol to contribute to my artistic identity. It is always placed next to my signature.
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