Art4you Gallery focuses on artistic empowerment through two artists - GulfToday

Art4you Gallery focuses on artistic empowerment through two artists


Babita Shamji’s artworks have been notably influenced by African culture.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

This year’s International Women’s Day was a reminder of the long and challenging journey women artists have had to travel before being recognised by their male peers and critics. It took a while, but now their names and works are essential part of art history. The work is ongoing, and the good news is that more and more institutions are joining efforts to provide further visibility to women, presenting their collections and focusing on their display practices. Curated and organised by Jesno Jackson, Co-founder of Art4you Gallery, an exhibition titled EMOTIONS - Women in Art was held at The Warehouse, Goshi Warehouses, Al Quoz, Dubai, in the first and second weeks of March. It hosted the works of two female artists, as a reminder of the long distances that have been covered in the journey of empowerment.

Women were the main characters of the exhibition, both as subject matter and as artists; which gave rise to the title. Two international female painters were spotlighted: Babita Shamji and Zena Yachoui. Shamji is an abstract expressionist Canadian artist of Indian origin while Yachoui is a contemporary abstract artist from Lebanon. They explored the expressive possibilities of abstraction through emotion, as presented through its fundamental elements: paint, colour and gesture. The show was organised not chronologically or geographically, but in two thematic clusters, on each wall of the exhibition space.


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Shamji’s artwork explores strength, agility, courage and beauty, abstracted in the forms of African women. There were also works relating to “material, process and time”; “environment, nature and perception” and “gesture and rhythm”. They came about through the deep observation of African culture.

“It’s time to rethink abstract expressionism through the women who defined it”, Shamji said. Her all-over canvases evince a deep curiosity with colour and its ability to convey emotion. Often inspired by landscapes, science, and the cosmos, they pulse with deftly modulated palettes. Like much of her work, the paintings possess the factor of fluidity.

Yachoui claims that “it is time to think differently about contemporary abstraction. My paintings can allow people to release stress, making them to express their emotions and feelings through lines and colours. Bright colours characterise my work.”

Babita Shamji is a Canadian artist of Indian origin.

Her canvases with their distinct use of colour provide a perception of feminine nature. The weaves and webs of the colour patterns and exuberant lines, examine identity and its environment. The paintings also featured prominent brushstrokes that are sometimes muted to form faint shapes. They reflect personal narratives and memories that shape the artist’s identity.

Born and raised in Canada with Indian origins, Shamji began her artistic career in 2017. After leaving Canada in 2005, she embarked on a new journey to West Africa and lived in several countries during a span of ten years, before finally settling in Dubai. While pursuing her passion for the arts, she took art classes as a hobby; she has always been drawn towards visual arts, dance, music, and performing arts. Eventually, she pursued a formal course in fine arts at the Lotus Educational Institute Dubai, which certified her as a fine artist.

Her figurative abstracts, where she connects lines, shapes, forms, and gestural marks, find their place with minimal details and a limited colour palette. Abstract art is her forte. She enjoys experimenting with different mediums such as collage, charcoal and chalk and has created a series of figurative abstract African works that have been featured in numerous exhibitions and caught the attention of notable curators and collectors.

Zena Yachoui is a contemporary abstract artist from Lebanon.

Her works have been exhibited in Italy, Canada, Africa, and the UAE. Her inspiration comes from nature, humanity, travel experiences and the emotions she felt from certain events in life. Her work reflects her appreciation of the interior and exterior beauty of women.

Artist-turned-curator-turned-gallerist Jackson first starts “by looking for art and artists and making works that I personally would want to live with.” She began collecting art during college in the early 90s, and launched Art4you in Bangalore, India, in 2009 during a lull in her art practice. Her long-standing affaire de coeur is with outlier and vernacular/self-taught artists, which makes up roughly half her programming. The other half focuses on emerging contemporary and underrepresented artists, with the occasional intertwining of the two.

The Warehouse is a space designed to appeal to art enthusiasts. It believes that an art cafe should be a combination of coffee, art and community that should create a unique and inspiring atmosphere, besides offering a space for exhibitions.

Art4you Gallery is a multicultural platform with a mission of connecting artists, promoting the exchange of art between the UAE and other nations “to create, nurture and stipulate community-based art projects.” “Over seven years, we have exhibited many thoughtfully curated solo and group shows that were documented and presented in aesthetically produced catalogues,” says Jackson.

“Art4you now leads a conspicuous art community in the UAE and its extended region that supports innovative work in the field of the visual arts. It has 120 plus dedicated members, 780 plus artist activists, and is connected to more that 1800+ artists around the world,” says Co-founder Rengi Cherian. Art4you’s latest event supported International Women’s Day 2023 and its theme #IWD2023 #EmbraceEquity. The Art4you event was attended by women leaders and artists, creatives, business people, media, government officials, art lovers, collectors and diplomats, among others. There were group activities such as women’s seminar, art workshop and live art throughout.

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