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Devout display
by Manjula Ramakrishnan June 15, 2018
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For visitors to Dubai Mall and the downtown area, this Ramadan had not one but three offerings by Art Noor, the multidisciplinary artist of the UAE.
 
 First is the Ramadan inspired LED show that he designed and produced for Burj Khalifa depicting the divine names, which was chosen to be played on the façade of the world’s tallest tower many times in the evening. The ‘99’ LED show begins every evening at 7.45pm, and is repeated many times.
 
A combination of artistic interpretation coupled with a spiritual concept, this show is being received with overwhelming response by both live and online audience. Testimony to this is the fact that the video of the show has crossed two million views and still counting.
 
Next is Noor’s annual exhibition, comprising 99 paintings on the 99 names of Allah being hosted by Dubai Mall, in their newly opened designer extension, the Fashion Avenue. 
 
In addition, Dubai Mall has been giving the free gift of his little black 99 book, available through their information centre. Art Noor speaks to Panorama about the triple offering this Ramadan.

What prompted you to undertake the LED show project at Burj Khalifa?
Like most important events in my life, this too came totally out of the blue. In the beginning of March, while casually browsing my twitter feed, I noticed a tweet by Burj Khalifa, posted a couple of weeks earlier, calling for entries for an international competition to design the multimedia LED show for its façade. The last date for the submission was a few days later, on March 9.
 
The moment I saw it, I wanted to do it. It took me a few days of constant work to put together a concept presentation and submit just a few hours before the submission deadline.
 
I heard back from them about 10 days later, informing me that they have shortlisted the entry but they wanted a version which would fit in exactly with their technical specifications. What followed was a very technology intensive exercise from my side, to go through the learning curve and come up with a final version ready to be played on the Burj Khalifa’s LED display system.

How did you manage to tackle the technical complexity of producing such a large scale show?
I was in advertising before I changed my career path and became a full time painter. Technology is just the enabler of ideas. Creativity is what drives technology, though it might get influenced by it. I look at any complex technical situation as a challenge and then figure out a way to deal with it. Many aspects of multimedia projects have become a lot easier by more efficient software and hardware than ever before.
 
How did you feel when you first saw the display?
Totally overwhelmed and mesmerised. It was almost like a storm of emotions because, some of the artworks featured in the show were done 15 years ago. And I have memories associated with each of them. There is a story of evolution of most of the artworks and I remember each vividly. And then to see them on a giant canvas like Burj Khalifa is not an everyday experience. Also the subject being so sacred and highly revered, the feedback is very real and from the heart. I could hear people recite the names as they appeared, with devotion and passion.
 
And this wavelength makes a big difference. Once something like this goes to centre stage, it acquires a life of its own, which is much bigger and grander than even what the artist thought of, either before or after doing it.

What is unique about your Dubai Mall exhibition?
It’s the first time that I have all the 99 names in one exhibition on such a scale and size. And the exposure is very high in a place like Dubai Mall which attracts high traffic.
 
How has your work evolved during the past year?
Between the last exhibition and this one, the scale of my paintings has gone through a wider movement. I mean size wise. For the first time I did commissioned works in sizes as big as 5 metres x 2 metres. And also much smaller works of 30 inches x 30 inches. I am experimenting with newer media and canvases. Some of my largest works have not yet found a big enough venue. Also I am working on creating more digital works and installations for international exhibitions. 
 

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