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The world is art enough
by Muhammad Yusuf April 26, 2018
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World Art Dubai (WAD) held its fourth edition (Apr. 18 – 21) at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Part of Dubai Art Season, the four-day event upped its own ante this year, offering Dubai’s ever hungry community of established art collectors, first-time buyers, art wannabes, style hunters and the simply curious, a unique opportunity to invest in a 4,000-strong collection of works by emerging artists from across the UAE, wider Gulf and around the globe.

Spanning 6,000 square metres of exhibition space, WAD included new segments such as photography and digital art, as well as galleries and dedicated walls for solo artists and groups. Contemporary paintings, prints, sculptures, custom made installations, photographs and mixed media ranging from $100 to $20,000, were showcased. The aim was not only to bring cutting edge and affordable art to the UAE, but also to connect international artists with the UAE’s art community.

More than 300 artists and galleries showcased their artwork. Each artist exhibiting at the fair had the opportunity to display one piece on the wall, reinforcing the fair’s stated message that global contemporary art, in all its diversity, should be made accessible, available and affordable for all.

In addition to over 150 exhibitors and 50 galleries from across the UAE, WAD featured artists from the USA, the UK, India, China, Peru, Denmark and Germany, among other countries.

Japanese artists displayed traditional calligraphy, ink painting and origami. They presented a number of calligraphic performances in haute couture kimono dresses. Artist Reisei painted fortune words with oversized brushes on a huge canvas to the sounds of music. Masako Tanaka created a new style of Japanese calligraphy, using various colours in her flower calligraphy session. A VIP Japanese Cultural Evening of calligraphy sessions, music and entertainment was also held.

The comprehensive schedule of family-friendly activities away from the core exhibition included a series of panel discussions with industry experts from The AJALA Project, Dubai Cares and Huawei and other local and regional entities and creatives. They explored how art can bring communities together, and whether the rise of the smart phone has diluted its true merit. The sessions covered topics such as ‘Art and Impact, What Does it Really Mean?’, ‘Waste Shouldn’t be Wasted’ and ‘Art, Travel and Photography’.

Scandinavian artist Hilde Ovesen discussed how art can make a positive change in humans in ‘Art Empowerment’, while Aditi Bhansali explored how mindfulness can be used in creative domains to bring about a community of happier individuals. 

Visitors could unleash their inner artist courtesy a curated bill of installations, activations, art talks and interactive workshops on how to create dreamcatchers (objects that are traditionally hung above a person’s bed to filter out bad dreams), create Mandala Art (intricate geometric patterns created on the base of a circle and used as a tool or therapy for relaxation) or learn about Islamic Geometry with local artist Jaber Alhaddad.  Pipo MoMa’s Customisation Workshop guided audience through bespoke customisation of bags and shoes.

Outside the exhibition space, the Ripe Craft Market was open daily with local exhibitors displaying hand-crafted lifestyle gifts, arts, crafts and furniture, as well as unique fashion and jewellery finds. It was the ideal setting to soak the sunshine and browse local handicrafts in a festival mood. The Ripe Organic Stand also had set up shop; you could take home some fresh, organic fruit and vegetables!

An ‘Art Attack’ chill-out area offered spice for both adults and kids. It gave the opportunity to paint with items of daily use, as part of a bigger WAD installation. Elsewhere, the Doodle Marathon by The AJALA Project’s female artists commemorated World Autism Day, World Creativity Day and Innovation Day. One artist was challenged to paint 2m x 2m each throughout the day for four days, with funds raised going to Dubai Autism Centre and The AJALA Project.

In celebration of the Year of Zayed, Forever Rose showcased a portrait of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, inspired by a photo taken around 1957, which is part of a collection in the UAE National Archives.

WAD also boasted a number of installations, including Alex Raspberry’s ‘Order, Chaos & Light’. Designed to help cut out the stresses of the world, it tried to immerse the audience in light, darkness, colour and sound in a 360 assault on visual and mental senses. A 360 Virtual Reality installation transported visitors directly into the heart of a painting through visuals, sound and scent, all thanks to a virtual reality headset.

Rajni Madhra was one of the participating artists.  “I love to work in oils, acrylic, charcoal on canvas”, she said. She applies rich tones in layers of paint, portraying plants, animals and humans in a realistic way, her oeuvre.

She is a self-taught artist, though she has attended workshops with international artists. She is greatly inspired and influenced by Rembrandt and Old Masters. Her work, she notes, has progressed from classical realism to abstract realism. She is of Indian origin, living in Abu Dhabi.

Shabnam Habib showed her works inspired by landscape and monuments of the UAE and Pakistan respectively, in acrylic and knife work. Zaahirah Muthy displayed her sculptures featuring the Dodo. She is Mauritian and has a natural empathy for the extinct bird.

Fu Wenjun, hailing from Chongqing, China, is a contemporary artist who integrates the traditional Chinese art with the latest technology in digital photography in a new art genre called ‘Digital Pictorial Photography’. He is considered a pioneer in his field and made his debut in the UAE at WAD. 

His works showed him deeply reflecting on and exploring the world, its history and future. He has the ability to harmoniously integrate strong Chinese traditional art tastes and cutting edge technology.

“I have always believed that photography as an art should not only be a tool to record our life. It can also be a very expressive art media to express an artist’s thinking and reflections on our world. At the same time, I do agree with the idea of cross-over art, which integrates several art disciplines into one piece of artwork. In my own practice, I create a connection between photography and painting”, he said.

Abstract colourist Leila Barakat Mukhaimer seemed totally enthusiastic about her art and absolutely besotted with her surroundings. She recalled she started her career in the art industry as an art dealer.

Her artwork was inspired by life and natural phenomena. The theme was an abstract journey through nature. “It is a dive into radiance, colour and magnitude of what is around us”, she said.

“From one piece to the next, a viewer is able to experience bursts of imagination that are all linked and inspired by the beauty and splendour of nature”.

Dubai based artist Ria Sharma, who has many well attended exhibitions to her credit, also showed her works. Self-taught, she is influenced by Cubism and Sufism. Her pictures related to Sufism, with dynamically dancing dervishes trying to burst out of constraints of lines, shapes and forms.

“In my art practice”, she said, “I discuss issues that are beyond mere surroundings. There is a whole new world within! I try and explore this connection through my artwork. In each of them I try to concentrate on inner beauty, strength and desires”. She is also an Arabic calligrapher.

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