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Building on light
by Muhammad Yusuf January 03, 2018
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Showcase Gallery and Mestaria are presenting a new collection of work by Dubai-based artist Mike Arnold. ‘Chasing The Light’ (Mar. 14 – April 21) will feature large-scale canvases, smaller studies and a series of limited edition prints that will be displayed at the gallery to coincide with the 2018 edition of Art Dubai.

In ‘Chasing The Light’, Arnold returns to his architectural roots, selecting landmark buildings in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and capturing their inner dynamism with a focus only on reflective light.

He spent 40 years of his professional life hand-sketching precise designs for architectural renderings and since making the transition to full-time artist, he has worked hard to push himself beyond his comfort zone into a fully developed practice.

In this series of large-scale oil paintings, he uses the wet-on-wet or alla prima technique, meaning, he is now sketching with his brush and embracing a more imperfect finish.

Visible brushstrokes and texture convey life and character from the heart of the pieces and a skilled use of colour palette mean that yellows, reds and orange hues convey the soul and spirit of the building directly to the viewer.

The Burj Khalifa, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Emirates Towers and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque are among the structures he has included in the exhibition. A deep understanding of the way these buildings were designed in relation to their natural surroundings means that Arnold is able to bring a new perspective to the audience and to utilise lifelong skills in a new and compelling way.

Each artwork is characterised by areas of brightness and small details that are juxtaposed with sections where colour and forms are reduced to bare bones - some areas of canvas are left blank.

Says Arnold: “When I was an architect, I did everything by hand; I sketched constantly and one of the most important things was not to overlook any small detail. But, as an artist, I no longer have to finish everything for my audience: I can let their eyes finish it for them. I like to leave voids as they give space for possibility and imagination”.

Sharon Harvey, director, Showcase Gallery, is part of the curatorial vision behind this new series and has worked closely to inspire him move forward with his practice. Says Harvey: “I feel this is a very important body of work for the region. Anyone today can take an amazing photo of the many fabulous buildings we see around us in the UAE. But who can really paint them? Mike brings them to life with the eye and hand of a mature architect who has lived in the Middle East for decades and who has watched these very buildings emerge and come to life from the desert sand”.

Arnold was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, and began his architectural career in a small firm there. He started in his teens as an office boy and moved up through the ranks to senior executive level.

He has worked on key projects in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California and Florida. Internationally, he completed major projects in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The last 10 years of his career were in the Middle East (Dubai and Doha), where his work focused mostly on healthcare projects.

He has enjoyed a successful second career as a full-time artist since 2013. He works from a studio in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood where he also teaches art at Mawaheb from Beautiful People.

His artworks have been bought by the Middle East region’s leading art collectors. They also hang in royal palaces, governmental and corporate headquarters and in the Four Seasons Hotels. (

Showcase Gallery was one of the first galleries to be established in the UAE in the 1990s and over the years, has established a venerable reputation with art collectors and designers. Its collection reflects not only the gallery’s ties to the region but also projects its respect and admiration for traditional skills and craftsmanship.

Mestaria, believing that art is a connector, enables creative connections in the Middle East. It is a strategic partner for artists and international clients who wish to access the region.

Room with a view

The Room is an immersive, large-scale interactive installation that takes place at Art Dubai each year. In 2018, it takes place at the heart of the fair, across an extended TV studio for the daytime talk programme, GOOD MORNING GCC.

GOOD MORNING GCC uses the tropes of daytime talk shows commonly featured on TV stations across the Arab world alongside a reference to Nam June Paik’s “Good Morning Mr. Orwell”, Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party, Chris Burden’s commercials and other artists who have used television’s potential to communicate to a wide audience.

Celebrity wedding singer and TV chef Sulaiman Al Qassar, an icon of food and performance, will launch the programme with a performative cooking demonstration on a stage design reflecting a behind-the-scenes backstage aesthetic which will be the anchor for a series of daily TV segments, performances, and parties over the course of the fair.

Founded in the VIP lounge at Art Dubai in 2013, the collective GCC has continued to address the shifting systems of power in the Gulf region and abroad.

GCC, an acronym that does not necessarily stand for but alludes to the Gulf Cooperative Council (the intergovernmental political and economic partnership that connects six countries in the region), is an artist “delegation” or collective composed of eight members, all of whom have strong ties to the Arabian Gulf region of the Middle East.

The group was formed in 2013 at Art Dubai and has since shown at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in Berlin; Project Native Informant in London; The New Museum, Whitney Museum of Art, and MoMA PS1 in New York; Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris; 9th Berlin Biennial; Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE; Fridericianum in Kassel; and the 78th Whitney Biennial.

Collective members are Nanu Al-Hamad, Khalid Al Gharaballi, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Fatima Al Qadiri, Monira Al Qadiri, Aziz Al Qatami, Barrak Alzaid and Amal Khalaf.

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