Abdullah Al Muharraqi is the co-founder of the Bahraini Association for Visual Arts. His oeuvre captures the transition experienced in Gulf societies, which used to be largely centered on the culture and economy of pearl diving. He often draws on folklore and imagined landscapes to depict local culture, daily practices and human interactions and experiences. Al Muharraqi also explores the relationship of the sea and nature to history and current events. His unique and figurative style is characterized by dynamic lines, vivid colors and smooth brushwork, evidencing multiple correspondences with, and references to, cubism, realism and surrealism.
In A Man and Fate, the Diver and the Shark, Al Muharraqi portrays the struggle between a pearl diver and an attacking shark. Against a spiraling red, yellow and orange background, the whirling shark challenges the resolve of the pearl diver, resulting in a tense but at the same time harmonious composition. Both diver and shark are shades of bright blue and their expressions match one another in determination. Their bodies, like the painting as a whole, are fragmented into simple geometric forms, such as the bulbous shape of the diver’s arm and leg muscles, the triangles that comprise the shark’s teeth and nose, and the overall uneven grid of the painting’s composition. In this scene of struggle, the shark swirls around the diver, who precariously grasps a pearl between thumb and forefinger as his other hand grips a knife, its blade moving towards the shark’s tail. At once a symbol of the difficulty of pearl diving and the quotidian risks that pearl divers face in order to make a living, and a potent political allegory given the year in which it was painted, A Man and Fate, the Diver and the Shark testifies to Al Muharraqi’s experimentation with the possibilities of painterly representation.