Leena Kewlani’s artistic skills impressed us, but it is her fortitude that inspired us the most. To Leena, imperfections are a reminder of the fullness of beauty in the world that surrounds us and a reflection of hidden stories that many of us miss.
Leena Kewlani is an abstract impressionist based in Dubai whose artistic journey has been everything but perfect. In 2014, Leena experienced a major setback in her life when she lost the ability to control both her hands due to damaged tendons. Simple tasks like picking up a pen became excruciatingly painful. Aside from the damaged tendons, Leena had to deal with the fact that several specialists seemed to seal her fate as she was repeatedly told that her condition was permanent – she would never be able to paint again.
Her ray of hope appeared in the form of an optimistic chiropractor that refused to believe the condition was irreversible and patiently began to work with Leena. Over a period of several months, they painted together and her chiropractor relied on Leena’s painting progress to determine whether her hands were improving. Two months into the treatment, Leena completed her first painting and in the process discovered a new artistic style.
“I was accustomed to painting with a brush, but the challenge of being unable to paint precise strokes in my condition forced me to switch to painting with knives and skewers. My style changed from fine strokes to larger ones and rather than feeling frustrated, I allowed myself to undergo a creative rebirth as I focused all my positive energy into trying to recover control of my hands,” Says an often-optimistic Leena.
In spite of the painful process towards recovering control of her passion, Leena maintains an upbeat attitude towards life. Her paintings are born out of a desire to infuse the world with love and joy; hence she only paints in the moments when she experiences an overflow of inner peace and happiness. She often gets commissioned to do works for individuals and corporations, a task she relishes and diligently executes by infusing every painting with a positive vibe.
‘Art is powerful. Paintings carry the aura of the artist with them and I want my paintings to infuse the space they are in with happiness and peace. For this reason I only paint when I am happy. This allows me to indirectly turn my customer’s living spaces into havens of peace and joy,” Adds Leena.
In a city that continually values a fast paced life and a busy career, Leena finds balance by practicing yoga. In addition to this, the influence of her Hindu spiritual roots can be seen in her personal spaces. Her mother, who remains her pillar, often reminds her to strike a balance between the kindness of Ganesha and the fierceness of Shiva as a result, Shiva Ganesha hold a special place in her heart. She has created over 30 paintings of Ganesha on canvas in addition to several etchings of Ganesha on mirrors, glass and silk.
A highly coveted sculpture of Ganesha, made out of eco-friendly materials sits in her studio and speaks of her devotion to Ganesha and her dedication to environmental sustainability.
The festival of Ganpati Ustav, an annual festival in honor of Shiva Ganesha, has for centuries been one of the major contributors to the pollution of water bodies in India. During the festival, the faithful make Ganesha idols as high as three meters and pray to them for ten days. At the end of ten day period, the idols are cast into lakes and rivers with the hope that all of the years’ troubles have been dissolved. In the process, heavy metals, paint and other non-biodegradable materials that are used to make the sculptures end up in the rivers, lakes and other water bodies. As concerns for the environment grow across the globe, there has been a gradual shift towards the use of eco-friendly materials during the festival of Ganpati Ustav.
“My eco-friendly Ganesha sculptures are a form of gratitude. To be able to use my hands in this way and create an ecofriendly Ganesha keeps me centered and reminds me to always keep a positive mindset and remain kind, humble and fierce,” Leena comments on her eco friendly Ganeshas. Several copies of Leena’s eco-friendly Ganeshas now sit in the shrines of more than 20 families in the United Arab Emirates and she continues to hope that she will create many more orders so as to continue showing her gratitude in this way.
Leena describes the world she inhabits during her creation process as divine. It is no surprise that her second favourite painting is a depiction of Radha Krishna’s dance in which Radha gets captivated by the soothing sounds of the flute being played by Krishna.
Apart from Hindu spirituality, new places that Leena visits during her frequent travels spur her to create bespoke pieces. Armed with a desire to be a light in the world, there is no telling just how far Leena’s light will shine.