Jumshed Qaisar paintings at Mussawir Art Gallery

A little while back, I stopped by at Mussawir gallery and I couldn’t help but be completely drawn into Jumshed Qaisar’s amazing Islamic calligraphy pieces.

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Born in Lahore, Qaisar is a renowned artist specializing in his unique interpretation of Arab calligraphy. As well as all over Pakistan, his work has been exhibited in countries such as Russia, Kuwait, Moscow and UK.

What I really loved about his pieces is how they are spiritually inspired yet still very beautiful, aesthetically. I like how he incorporates the lettering in a very unconventional way.

Traditionally, calligraphy is created in a linear way from right to left, but the artist uses the letters more like patterns to creatively fill in spaces and so he produces the most unique, abstract masterpieces.

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I like how the letters intertwine with each other and how he combines the calligraphy with other elements such as shape, form and colour as well as his clever use of negative space.

The letters vary from intricate and delicate to thick, bold and pronounced, while still keeping consistent and harmonious as a whole.

His choice of colour palette is beautiful and tasteful, sticking to just a few complementary bold shades which really make a statement.

I like the unexpected zing of lime green in this one.

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As well as the tiniest sliver of orange in this monochrome one. It really works, visually.

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Blending classic tradition with innovative, contemporary abstraction, his work exudes all the mystery of Arabia.

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The Big Picture Opening Night

So imagine that you are in an art gallery featuring an array of local UAE artists.

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You’re nibbling on canapes as you chat with your arty friends. Everything is pretty laid back and chilled out and you’re enjoying looking at all the impressive artwork. You turn to your left and BOOM!

Salvador Dali, The Horse Series,  Swan

Salvador Dali, The Horse Series, Swan

A Dali.

An ORIGINAL, honest-to-goodness Salvador Dali which is so close you can just reach out and touch it!

No need to go all the way to Barcelona to have this experience; it happened right here in Pro Art Gallery, Jumeirah on the opening night of The Big Picture on May the 5th.

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Curated by artist Ram Nath, The Big Picture is now in its second edition and is under the patronage of His Highness Shiekh Khalid Bin Mansour Al Thani.

As well as Dali, other legendary artists that were featured at the exhibition included Banksy, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol

Roy Lichtenstein, Cow Going Abstract

Roy Lichtenstein, Cow Going Abstract

All their original works were exhibited side by side with 45 local artists from the UAE. The best part was there were no walls or barriers separating the legends from the contemporaries.

Vahid Danaiefar, untitled 2, Oil on board,

Vahid Danaiefar, untitled 2, Oil on board,

Luis Vazquez, The Path of the Foxes, Acrylic on Canvas

Luis Vazquez, The Path of the Foxes, Acrylic on Canvas

Kevin Badni, Big head, Sculpture

Kevin Badni, Big head, Sculpture

“The idea of including internationally renowned legends and UAE based artists supported the main goals of The Big Picture, which is to demolish any boundaries or categorization that may limit the artists or their thought processes.” Nath explains.

The exhibition has alot of diversity as it explores multifaceted artistic creations featuring painting, photography, sculpture, digital art, performance art, installation as well as sound and video arts, by emerging and established artists.

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The gallery was packed with an assortment of art aficionados soaking up the atmosphere.

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The interesting part about this exhibition was it had a highly personal touch as there was an audio guide available.

It allowed the viewer to wander around at his/her own pace with headphones on and listen to each artist talk about their themes and inspirations behind their pieces.

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The energy was infectious and the talent was indeed awe-inspiring.

Reem Albanna, Hazy Reality, Oil on Canvas

Reem Albanna, Hazy Reality, Oil on Canvas

Zoya Tariq, Imprisoned in a mistaken identity, Photography

Zoya Tariq, Imprisoned in a mistaken identity, Photography

Eduardo Yup, Face the Reality, Acrylic on fiber matt

Eduardo Yup, Face the Reality, Acrylic on fiber matt

Resurger, Liberty 2, Screen print,

Resurger, Liberty 2, Screen print,

Aleksandar Bezinovic, Annunciation, Acrylic on Canvas

Aleksandar Bezinovic, Annunciation, Acrylic on Canvas

Here are a couple of photos of my work at the exhibition …

My work at the gallery

Free as a Bird, acrylic on board,

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Thanks to The Big Picture, someday I can brag to my future grandkids that I was featured in the same exhibition as Picasso!

If you have not seen it yet, you’d best skedaddle as the exhibition continues until the 24th of May!

Imran Qureshi exhibition at Salsali Private Museum

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Hailed as Deutsche Bank’s artist of the year of 2013, Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi is creating waves in Pakistan’s contemporary art genre and is the pioneer of neo-contemporary miniature painting. He has received international acclaim for his intense and highly unique style.

commissioned paintings on the roof of The Met

commissioned paintings on the roof of The Met

As soon as I saw his famous roof garden commission he created for The Met in New York, I was spellbound by the artist’s intricate and powerful work. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out THE Imran Qureshi was having a solo show here in Dubai at Salsali Private Museum, Al Serkal.

Qureshi’s themes center around social, political and ideological issues. He is primarily influenced by terrorism and corruption in Pakistan, although, he acknowledges that violence is a pressing issue everywhere, not just in Pakistan and therefore his work is relevant globally.

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As I walked into the gallery I was startled by seeing the artist’s signature style in person.

It’s a very raw, blood-splattered illusion but when you look closer it resembles a cluster of beautiful delicate chrysanthemums rendered in shades of crimson. This reiterates his themes of beauty being born amongst destruction.

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I love how he utilizes an ancient style of Mugal-era miniatures but incorporates it in a contemporary way to speak about present issues – juxtaposing the country’s past and present. The way he combines traditional fine art with installation is fascinating too.

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I pondered why he chose to repeatedly use a gold background on the canvases. Was it purely for aesthetics or was it deliberately chosen to convey the stark contrast in social classes within Pakistan, highlighting overt flamboyance with suffering?

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His installation in particular was remarkable. I am at loss for words for this one. See it for yourself!

"And They Still Seek The Traces Of Blood" by Imran Qureshi.  mounds and mounds of "blood" stained papers/floral motifs.

“And They Still Seek The Traces Of Blood” by Imran Qureshi.
mounds and mounds of “blood” stained papers/floral motifs.

Same installation shown in Berlin

Same installation shown in Berlin

The artist draws from personal experience as he has witnessed the turmoil his native country has endured over the years with tragic and deadly bombings, rise of sectarian extremism and frequent suicide bombings and shootings.

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Although his work is about creating awareness of violence and extremism, interestingly, his overall tone is not entirely negative or cynical. In fact, his pieces evoke a sense of hope in humanity.

He states that there is a certain correlation between destruction and beauty; it forms an existential cycle that not only makes us despair but also gives us hope. I agree wholeheartedly with the artist on his views.

It’s a poignant fact that when shrouded in calamity, injustice and natural disasters, that is when, simultaneously, tenderness and compassion is demonstrated and therefore humanity is restored.

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‘Tis the season to be arty, Falalalala lalalala ….

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Not only is February the official month of love, but it’s also proving to be quite a glorious time for art aficionados like myself.

There are tonnes of interesting art events and exhibitions going on right now. I’ve been keeping busy doing my usual gallery hopping and last week I went to see two great shows with extremely different tones.

My friend Deama had invited me to come to an exhibition called Fakie #3 which she was participating in.

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Opening night of Fake#3 at FN Designs

Opening night of Fake#3 at FN Designs

Fakie #3 was held at FN designs at Al Serkhal Avenue. Every artist participating at this show had been given a blank skateboard to use as their canvas and they were to illustrate their signature style on it.

The end results were so amazing as there was so much variation in subject matter in the collection. For instance, some artists went for patterns, others opted for sketching animals. A few skateboards had been adorned with beautiful, romantic, art nouveau style illustrations with flowing hair and exaggerated manga-esque eyes.

Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos

Joseph Manata

Joseph Manata

Azim Al Ghussein

Azim Al Ghussein

H.H. Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum

H.H. Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum

The mood for the evening was chilled out, vibrant and fun. In keeping with the theme, they even had a skateboard ramp built outside to get your “skillz on”

Oh, and the canapes!!! Sushi, salmon and shawermas…Oh my!!!!!

I certainly enjoyed noshing on those while browsing through the “totally bodacious boards!!!”

(That last phrase has to be read in a voice like Michelangelo the ninja turtle, please.)

group shot of participating artists

group shot of participating artists

Almost a Dream opening night

Almost a Dream opening night

Moving along, another exhibition I was very eager to see was Safwan Dahoul’s solo show “Almost a Dream” held at Ayyam gallery in DIFC.

The critically acclaimed Syrian painter has created a soulful and poignant series of paintings in muted monochrome shades.

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Inspired by his colour palette, I dressed in monochrome just for the occasion!

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There’s elements in his work which are inspired ancient Pharaonic art. An example of this is how he incorporates a distinctive almond shaped Eye of Horus symbol shown repeatedly in his pieces. He uses reoccurring figures such as angels and a soft female form to narrate his ideas.

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The themes he deals with in his work have a melancholy tone as he generally centers around war, tragedy and the inhumane conditions civilians have to go through in his home country in Syria.

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Dahoul attempts to bring out the in the viewer the same feeling of pain that is experienced in his own being. His evocative work is open to interpretation and hence, very engaging and personal to the viewer. So much so that I found some of his paintings really did trigger an emotional chord with me.

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“Almost a Dream” is on display at DIFC until the 13th of March.

Ali Abbas solo show at Mussawir Gallery

I’ve always had a soft corner for Pakistani art. I’m aware that statement may sound biased given my roots, but hear me out – From Sadequain’s calligraphic cubism to Hajra’s romantic illustrative pieces, Pakistani art boasts a full-bodied and unique … Continue reading

The Young Collector’s Auction

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I’ve always been so curious about auctions.

Not only are they über chic, attracting the creme de la creme of art buffs … they seem so exclusive too. I’ve always wanted to go to one and play the part of a mysterious woman in big floppy theatrical hat and scarlet lipstick; looking like a some sort of heiress character with a story to tell.

I’d sit at the back and furrow my brow in deep contemplation while examining the artwork… “Should I bid on this one?? Yes ? No? Will it go with the decor in my mansion in Emirates Hills? Sure…” (raises paddle nonchalantly). Yawn. Next.

Alas! As colourful as that fantasy is, it seemed futile. I always assumed auctions were unattainable. Not for the spectators, only for the participants – but I was delighted to discover I was wrong. Not all auctions are solely for collectors to enjoy.

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The Young Collector’s Auction at Ayyam Gallery had a very warm and open atmosphere, welcoming all art enthusiasts – even aspiring collectors who weren’t intending on bidding that night.

Tempting as it was to don a large floppy hat for the occasion, I decided to go with something a tad more subtle …

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Just like how I imagined it, the auction was an exhilarating, exciting and enriching experience. It was hosted by auctioneer Hisham Samawi, whose quick-witted quips and banter proved to make a very entertaining night. There were 78 artworks and installations auctioned that evening all created by Arab contemporary artists.

Personally, I was really looking forward to seeing Shurooq Amin and Safwan Dahoul’s work, because I am such a huge fan of both of them and really liked the pieces they had for auction.

For this blog post I am just highlighting some of my favorite works and how much they went for. If you are interested in what’s going on in the Arab art scene feast your pretty little eyes on these …

Shurooq Amin  Kuwaiti artist "The Kiss"  $3,000

Shurooq Amin
Kuwaiti artist
“The Kiss”
$3,000

Shurooq Amin Kuwaiti artist "My Mistress and Family" $3,000

Shurooq Amin
Kuwaiti artist
“My Mistress and Family”
$3,000

Safwan Dahoul Syrian artist "Reve"  $8,000

Safwan Dahoul
Syrian artist
“Reve”
$8,000

Afshin Pirhashemi
Irani artist
“I don’t need sex”
$19,000

Abdulrahman Katanani Palestinian artist X-Altanorah $21,000

Abdulrahman Katanani
Palestinian artist
“X-Altanorah”
$21,000

Ahmad Moualla Syrian artist  Untitled  $16,000

Ahmad Moualla
Syrian artist
Untitled
$16,000

Ammar Al Beik Syrian artist "Umm Kulthum" $6,500

Ammar Al Beik
Syrian artist
“Umm Kulthum”
$6,500

Ghassan Sebai Syrian artist "Untitled" $11,000

Ghassan Sebai
Syrian artist
Untitled
$11,000

Nazir Nabaa Syrian artist "Untitled" $7,500

Nazir Nabaa
Syrian artist
Untitled
$7,500

Fashion illustration workshop at The Archive

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If there’s anything I have noticed about teachers, it’s that there are generally two types.

There’s the bitter ones who have had big career dreams in the past but failed and so they ended UP teaching, much to their dismay. As a result, they’re disillusioned and don’t hesitate take it out on their students. These are the ones who are skeptical, negative and revel in giving you a good hard daily dose of their (not so) delightful “realistic advice.”

On the flip side of the coin, there are the teachers who genuinely love to teach and let you in on all their secrets and tricks of the trade. They are teaching from a place without scarcity and truly want you to succeed. Those are the ones inspire. Like Miss Honey from Matilda. I’ve encountered both types and I’ve always known that if I were to teach fashion illustration, I’d strive to be the latter type.

In short, I wanna be a Miss Honey.

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When I was invited to teach an illustration workshop at The Archive, I knew this was my chance to inspire. After all, I love what I do and so the idea of sharing what I have learned so far in this field really appealed to me.

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As I mentioned before in a previous post, The Archive is an art community center/library and cafe located in Safa Park, Dubai. I thought their location was perfect for my class – the tables were large and spacious with plenty of natural daylight flooding the room – just perfect for a leisurely afternoon of illustration! Another upside is that because it’s in a library, there’s lots of reference material to browse through for inspiration.

The workshop was an introductory one which was primarily used just to gauge if there is any interest in the subject. I’m happy to report that it turns out there was an abundance of interest!!! I had lots of people wanting to sign up, and a great turnout for the first class!

In a nutshell, we went over some basic 101 watercolour techniques. These included tips on how to control the paint, what brushes to use for what purpose, how to shade and render fabrics, how to draw clothes on the body and a little information about prints and simple ways of covey them realistically.

I was very impressed by my students’ work! Here’s a few photos of what we got up to!

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And here I am with my adorable youngest student who is just ten years old! Talk about a prodigy in the making! 🙂

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It’s still early days, but hopefully we plan to include a much more intensive course in March spanning over a few weeks where I will cover an array of illustration related topics in even more detail.

Hopefully this will keep the art aficionados happy! Until then, as Dori would say (if she was an artist) just keep sketchin’ …

Fashion Illustrator Hatty Pedder

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Ok, I have to confess … I have a crush. An “art crush” that is, on Dubai based illustrator Hatty Pedder.

British born Hatty had studied in the UK at Central St Martins in London. She has exhibited her illustrations in numerous international locations such as Frankfurt and Mumbai, as well as working on a myriad of illustrated projects and commissions in Dubai as well.

When I first came across her illustrated column “Caricouture” in Time Out magazine, the first thing that struck me most about her work was her amazing confidence in lines.

A sense of chic simplicity is something I really admire from a lot of illustrators such as David Downton and Jaqueline Bisset. As someone who has a habit of putting in tonnes of detail into my own work, I love how Hatty’s lines have so much variation in weight and there is such a fresh sense of spontaneity.

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Moreover, she gets right to the point. Hatty doesn’t faff about with excessive lines, too much colour or detail. She knows exactly how to use JUST the right amount of information to keep her illustrations retaining a very distinguishable character and style. Her work is always fresh, unique and with a dash of mystery, leaving people (like me) craving more. Just feast your eyes on these!

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Jaguar style stakes preview

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love love LOVE this one! Look at the hustle and bustle happening in the kitchen.

Love love LOVE this one! Look at the hustle and bustle happening in the kitchen.

See what I mean? The random (but very deliberate) splashes of colours, the quirky, stylised characters and just the all around “cool” factor. She’s really a master at capturing her environment and one can easily gauge at a glance what the ambience was like at each event.

In fact, her technique and impulsive strokes remind me a lot of one of my favorite illustrators, Quentin Blake who, as we all know, illustrated for Roald Dahl books.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Hatty for the blog so she can tell us a little bit more about her techniques, her inspirations and a bit about her solo show at Mojo gallery.

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How long have you been doing illustration for? When did it all start?

I studied at Central Saint Martins in London, where I gained a degree in Graphic Design and specialised in illustration. My journey into the land of illustration began 20 years ago. My first commission was for Conde Nast in London, where I worked before heading out to Dubai.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere – fashion, people, life style, Art Nouveau, Pop Art and a wealth of other sources buried in my subconscious.

How does the illustration/art scene in Dubai differ from other countries you have worked in? Are there any advantages to working as an artist in the UAE?

The whole art scene here has evolved so much in Dubai in the last decade with the boom of the Art Dubai Fair and all the magazines, events and galleries. With the internet and being able to work remotely I think you can now be located anywhere. Being in Dubai with all its amazing events and fashion events definitely for the way I personally work always provides me with huge reference material.

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You are quite specialised in commercial art, yet your work still appeals to the contemporary ambiance of a fine art gallery. This is a very challenging thing to do and most artists find they have to either market themselves as a conceptional artist i.e painter/installations OR a commercial artist (graphic designer, illustrator) How did you successfully merge the two together? Do you have to tweak your work accordingly when doing exhibitions as compared to commercial projects?

This is an interesting question I get asked a lot. I regard my illustration as answering a brief. The commissions that I take on are only ones suited to my style and tend to be in the fashion and life style genre. Whenever I am answering a brief I am communicating the clients vision, and I have to find a way to achieve the correct tone and message whilst keeping myself and style in the final piece or pieces. I find breaking up my personal painting with touches of illustration work refreshing, stimulating and sometimes puts me out of my comfort zone which I enjoy. I have also started recently doing life drawing at VIP events which I love.

My personal art which I exhibit is where I solely express myself and is totally derived from own inspirations. I love to visit new countries to gather fresh inspiration, from which I create collections on different cities. I also take on private commissions for some of my collectors. My work is always derived from people and life style, and combines photography, photomontage and mixed media. I feel very fortunate to have found a balance between Artist/Illustrator.

What is your favorite medium to use and do you experiment with elements of a prefered digital medium too, like photoshop?

My favourite medium to work in is mixed media – which I play with and can keep adding new materials to the mix.
I only use photoshop when I am involving photography in my work. For my illustration I tend to scan or shoot my artwork, and if required make any tweaks in photoshop afterwards.

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You have such a great line quality and energy with your live drawings that you create from events. Is it very challenging to capture that ambiance with minimal line and time constraints? How do decide which lines are important for your gestural illustrations and is this something you’ve perfected with years of experience?

My blog Caricouture http://www.hattypedder.com/blog which I shared with Time Out, was all created from photographs I took whilst attending the events, and then created afterwards. These are very spontaneous pieces and I love doing them as they keep my hand free. For this series I used a dip pen which I use in all my work.

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I love the innovative rich way you’ve used mixed media in your work at your solo show. It’s almost like the 3D layering of material gives your art pieces the impression that they’ve been “built” rather than drawn. Tell us about your solo show, your ideas behind the concept and a bit about your unique technique.

My latest exhibition “KOSH BOSH!” is inspired by Beirut and is currently on at The Mojo Gallery. This collection was inspired by a series of trips I made to Beirut and all the contrasts with in the city. This series was more conceptional than my previous exhibitions, and more experimental in materials. I used aluminium, neon plexi, car mirrors, acrylic sheets combined with photography and my strong linear ink work mixed with acrylic paint and water colours.

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And finally do you have any words of wisdom for young illustrators out there who are just starting out in this field?

Only stay true to yourself – follow your passion and work hard!