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Glorious colours of the Nation
by Manjula Ramakrishnan December 08, 2017
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‘UAE 46’ is an art competition that celebrates the National Day through a burst of colours. Over 60 artworks from around the world vied for the coveted prize and the works of the first two prize-winning artists are now displayed at Etihad Towers Hotel in Abu Dhabi till Dec.15.

Swiss Art Gate UAE, in collaboration with the non-profit organisation ‘Wanna Read?’ led by Sheikha Shamma Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, is bringing the event to commemorate the 46th UAE National Day.

Kurt Blum, general manager of Swiss Art Gate says, “We received so many fantastic and creative ideas that made the final choice extremely difficult. Art works poured in from America, Europe, India, China, Japan, and the Philippines to name but a few. We are absolutely overwhelmed with the devotion shown to UAE’s National Day.”
The first prize was won by Filipino Eduardo V. Yap Jr, who lives in Al Ain. The second place was secured by Zahra Goulamhoussen, an Indian national residing in Dubai. The following are excerpts from an interview with the two winners.

Eduard V. Yap Jr

What prompted you to join this competition?
When I joined the competition it was not at all about winning, but about being a part of an amazing group of artists from across the world. Since the theme was `UAE 46’ I decided to first study in-depth the culture and heritage of this country. It was awe-inspiring how in a little over four decades the nation has reached such levels of prosperity. So I set about depicting different symbols of the UAE to signify their heritage, which is very dear to the nation amidst all the modern strides that it makes.

Can you describe your winning entry?
Every item I have placed in there represents the UAE. The birds resting on the head of the camel is symbolic of the different nationalities living here. I have created on canvas a mix of preserved heritage and modern structures to show how the UAE is a charming mix of both.

What does the win mean to the artist in you?
As a Filipino artist winning an international competition of this dimension is an honour for my home country. The win also brought me close to some very talented artists and this reminded me to be humble and modest in my victory. It has also opened up great opportunities for me as an artist. I define my style as contemporary art and use acrylic and fibre mat on canvas. In this winning entry I have used fibre material to add more textures. Motivated by this win, I want to explore more genres.

Zahra Goulamhoussen

Can you describe your winning entry?
It was one of the largest pieces that I completed using the ornate style. It took me 120 hours to complete; totally challenging but extremely rewarding too. More than the win, it was a pleasure for me to produce something in honour of the UAE, a place my family and I proudly call home. The piece speaks volumes about the UAE. The clock represents the architectural evolution of the UAE over time. The clock hands subtly convey 46. The UAE flag colours are used to bring energy to the monochrome work. The Arabian horses depict heritage and nobility; the falcon wings signify the soaring heights this country has reached. The industrial cogs illustrate the nation’s constant hunger for development and progress.

What is your preferred medium and technique?
While the style is ornate, my work is dominated by human form with animal juxtapositions. I like black and white, but often lean towards that special little splash of colour. I predominantly use inks and charcoal. I have over the years started to explore the use of acrylics alongside inks which gives my work greater depth.

What is your next art project?
I will be showcasing a new collection at World Art Dubai in 2018. It will be a collection of 10 new pieces, a range of horses, lions and other majestic creatures. Each beast is coupled with a contradictory element depicting them as the gentle giants that they really are.

What serves as your inspiration?

The world is all about metamorphosis. A caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly. In my piece titled ‘Metamorphosis’ I have a butterfly resting on a wolf’s head; the wolf is a predator, the butterfly is the humane and gentle side that still exists in each individual. It is this diversity of traits and nature that is my inspiration.

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