“Every artist was first an amateur.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The light filled corridor adjacent to The Chocolate Gallery at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel has once again become an impromptu art gallery filled with an eclectic mix of vivid artworks, as six UAE based artists exhibit their work at this year’s No White Walls exhibition. This now annual event is in its third year, featuring work across a variety of different mediums including paintings, sculpture, photography, digital and textile art.
I was excited to be invited to have a sneak peek of the works on display and meet five of the six artists ahead of the opening reception this evening (17th September) at 7pm. Two of the founding artists of No White Walls back in 2013, Julia Ibbini and Emily Gordon are not only talented artists in their own right but are also passionate about developing the local arts community at a basic level. Both long-term residents of the UAE they have staged many artist-led exhibitions like this one at the Fairmont as well as developing art related community projects across the UAE.
Ibbini has lived in the UAE since she was a young child, growing up and attending school here she has a real understanding of the local culture and has seen first hand the many changes and development that the Emirate has undergone over the past thirty years. Her detailed work of cityscapes and the ocean are just stunning, this year her theme is Portrait of a City, a series of nine pieces that combine pattern, textures and bright colours embellished with various crystals and beads.
She cleverly digitally layers photographs, drawings and paintings to create unique and detailed individual, boldly coloured pieces. Each piece is made up of one hundred layers that are overlaid by hand with paint, varnishes, beads, crystals and metallic ink, seeing really is believing as each piece is striking in its own right.
Confident American artist Gordon has lived in the UAE for over twenty-five years and her modern multi media layered works are made of acrylic paint, interlaced with paraffin, resin, gold and silver leaf. Her pieces portray local scenes and incorporate miniature artefacts and trinkets collected from her travels around the Emirate (she has a thing about Arabic doors too). Her distinctive and colourful work is amazing, littered with tongue-in-cheek references and her sense of humour is portrayed throughout her work.
As you reflect on her designs you spot different quirky elements the longer you look, words, logos, tiny comedic components and surreptitious perspectives. I partially like her series of large paintings that depict the Abu Dhabi Corniche and skyline from Mina Port to Etihad Towers that incorporate her own special interpretation of the city. She uses photographs of cultural references and local signs as well as traditional arabic bric-a-brac and features prominent Abu Dhabi corporations, such as Etihad Airways and Aida, her attention to detail and imagination are just incredible.
Abu Dhabi favourites Jen Simon and Ibbini’s mother Janine, a textile artist are again involved in this year’s exhibition. Janine’s work is a range of fantastic, one-off impressive pieces that combine her love of fine art with sewing, talents that she has perfected over the years, often teaching herself new techniques, hand printing and dyeing her own textiles too. Moving to the UAE as a young mother thirty-five years ago this lovely Yorkshire lady shares an artistic passion with her talented daughter and returned to her interest in art after raising her family here in the capital.
Even though their styles may be very different, they have both been influenced the cultures and Landscapes of the UAE, it was fantastic to meet the enthusiastic mother/daughter duo who get to exhibit their work together. which is just awesome. Janine’s work is painstakingly detailed involving layering many fabrics and intricate stitching, sometimes she is inspired by words and music as well as the environment around her. At No White Walls this year she is displaying pieces from two collections, her Asharq Al-Awsat works and her detailed Damascus muted tones piece depicting a crowd of captivating faces was my favourite of her designs.British-born Simon’s work is bold, distinctive and colourful. She is well-known in this region for her own particular style and interpretation of urban cityscapes and the people who inhabit them. Living in the UAE for fifteen years has influenced her work, as she has transferred her observations of landscape and humanity into her pieces. Her series of limited edition prints Right Here, Right Now displayed at No White Walls are inspired by Abu Dhabi. A regular contributor to local exhibitions, Simon is also involved in community projects that involved working with schools and other artists.
Well travelled Greek photographer and digital artist Yiannis Roussakis, who is represented by the Etihad Modern Art Gallery in the UAE, joined the No White Walls exhibition last year. Having lived and worked in several countries across the globe, he has now settled here in Abu Dhabi. His works are an eye-catching mix of monochrome and colour photographs that are designed to reveal the fact and fantasy of seemingly trivial everyday objects, spaces and moments, reflecting the idea that actually a person’s reality is just a state of dreaming.
His passion for photography began as a teenager, working hard for many years to realise his dream for art to be his full-time career and his works displayed at this exhibition are entitled Human Condition, a mixture of pieces that stir your emotions. In The End is about accepting ourselves for what we are, whoever we are, another fantastic piece is Saudade, a piece representing nostalgia depicted in the form of a boat made from old airmail letters.
Jordanian artist Mohammad Awwad is also a graphic designer and a man with a vivid imagination. It’s his first time exhibiting at the No White Walls exhibition and he brings an array of though provoking paintings to the event. His work is a diverse and interesting mix of an edgy surreal style interwoven with cultural references. Old and new are mixed with interesting details that catch your eye both in the foreground and background of each painting, combined with political and religious references that resonate in today’s society.
Spot his obsession with flying inanimate objects (hot air balloons that on closer inspection are bulbs of garlic), random animals, hidden messages and meanings with some arabic calligraphy added in too. Awwad’s imagination and vision are the key to the success of his paintings and of course his amazing artistic talent too. I loved his out of the ordinary style, his painting relating to a dream about his mother was fascinating, his flamboyant pieces are a welcome addition to this exhibition.
I am, as we have clearly established in this post and previous ones in the same vein not an art connoisseur in any shape or form but I do enjoy art exhibitions and visiting galleries. This year’s No White Walls exhibition is most definitely worth a visit and I recommend you visit at some point in the next three months to experience it for yourself. If you are free this evening pop along to the opening event and meet the talent artists in person.
No White Walls Exhibition
Location: The Chocolate Gallery, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel, Khor Al Maqta Abu Dhabi
Maps & Directions
Telephone: 02 654 3333
The No White Walls exhibition opens with an official reception at 7pm this evening and will run until 1st January 2016. Admission is free.
For more details about attending the opening reception and the No White Walls exhibition itself visit www.no-white-walls.com or telephone 055 609 3775
No White Walls can also be found on Facebook – NoWhiteWallsUAE and Instagram – nowhitewallsuae
I was invited to this event but all the views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.