When did you first become interested in art, Mireille?
Ever since I can remember. Most children have a fascination with colours but they grow out of them eventually. For artists, it doesn’t really ever go away. When I realised that I had the ability to create art and that I saw things differently to my friends, I knew that I needed to have art as part of my life.
Was it difficult to decide what kind of artist you wanted to become?
I’ve always been a painter, but I studied and worked in the interior architecture and design field until my kids were born, when I decided to redirect my efforts to fine art. But yes, the hardest thing when you’re an artist is having your work stand out, so you do need a style that’s yours.
[Why this Emirati artist fell in love with printmaking]
How do you describe your style?
Technically, it’s called abstract expressionism, and what I’m doing now is something I’ve been trying to do for most of my adult life. When I first launched at World Art Dubai last year, the response was really good, and I knew that this was what I’m going to stick to for now.
Is this similar to what Jackson Pollock did?
Abstract expressionism started with him — it’s all about intuitively working with paint; throwing paint down and seeing how it reacts together. It’s a very give-and-take communication between the artist and the paint and the chemical reactions that happen. When I found this style it really excited me and it opened up things for me that I was waiting to open up.
What tools do you use?
I use brushes, pallet knives, little pipettes, craft sticks, straws to blow out of, a hairdryer — and I have recently invested in an air compressor so there should hopefully be no more dizzy spells from all the blowing! I also tilt the canvas to move the paint.
How do you apply that first layer?
Usually with a brush, making a background as a guideline. And then I would start to pour, and I will manipulate the paint to get the directions that I want. And then once I see something happening, I pour more intentionally to get exactly what I’m trying to achieve. Once those two or three layers are dry, which takes two days or so, I will add another couple of layers of pouring if I want to. If not, I would start detailing with a brush. So I would highlight, I would hide, I would darken. I would just use my brush to make it come to life.
Does it always go well, or do you often abandon works?
No, it doesn’t always go well — I have some pieces that scare me. There’s this one piece that I now use to test materials on, and if you saw it would make you shudder, it’s like murder. But abandoned works serve a purpose for the piece that comes right after them. I don’t consider it a waste; I just I thank it for teaching me what I needed.
Is it messy?
Oh, yeah, it’s very messy. Sometimes I have to stop just in time to pick up my kids or go do the grocery shopping and I don’t have enough time to clean up. So I do get a lot of stares, especially since I’ve been working a lot with red these days.
What’s the hardest part of creating a piece of art?
Knowing when to stop. There is a very fine line between, ‘I got it! That’s it!’ and ‘Oh, my gosh, I ruined it.’ So many times I’ve done something and I loved it — but I didn’t take a picture of it. And then I kept going, and I ruined it. And I don’t have any trace of what it looked like.
How long does a typical piece take you to complete?
It depends on the size really, but usually 10 days to one month, just because there’s a lot of drying time. And there’s a lot of staring time, too. I tend to stare for days between each layer — otherwise, it wouldn’t have any soul in it. And so I just stare and then I wait for it to tell me what to do.
What’s been the most — and least — flattering things that someone has said about one of your pieces?
The most flattering by far was when a lady was looking at my work and she turned to me and said, ‘I stopped breathing for a second there.’ That was a real ‘Wow!’ moment. And the least flattering was when someone told me my paintings make them feel angry.
What do you think of the commonly held idea that all artists are eccentric?
All people have a degree of eccentricity, and it would be such a boring world if we didn’t have whimsical people. But I guess I am a little eccentric and I do see things a little differently.
Finally, is it hard to make a living as an artist?
If you’re Banksy, then it’s not, but for most of us it is hard to find people who really appreciate what you do. It is hard, but luckily the art scene here at the moment is very vibrant and it is opening the doors to so many great opportunities. I feel very fortunate to be an artist here right now.
Mireille will be exhibiting at World Art Dubai again this year. The event runs from April 3-6 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.