Contemporary Emirati art tours US

Friday 29/05/2015
Dana Al Marashi and Abdul Qader Al Rais discuss his latest project

Washington - PAST FORWARD: Contemporary Arts from the Emirates opened May 16th at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) in Spokane, Washington, in the northwestern United States.

This unique 6-week exhibition showcases work in diverse media by 25 artists from the United Arab Emirates.

Part of the Emirates’ public diplomacy strategy is to introduce Americans to its vibrant arts and culture scene.

The United States is the UAE’s third largest trading partner and Washington state exports more to the UAE — more than $3 billion worth in 2014 — than any other US state, principally due to the fact that it is the home of aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

“The UAE and Washington state have strong economic ties,” Dana Al Marashi of the UAE Embassy told The Arab Weekly, “but our relationship goes beyond that.

We are connected through a shared vision and art which can be used as a powerful tool for people to learn about each other’s cultures.” The UAE found an ideal partner in MAC Executive-Director Forrest B.


“One of our goals,” Rodgers told The Arab Weekly, “is to encourage visitors to experience the world differently; to bring people together to help them experience and understand other cultures’ heritage and art.

“This exhibit helps people from the inland Northwest become more familiar with a part of the world about which we hear a lot but about which we understand little.” The exhibit’s opening night featured American Indian regalia, dance, Indian drumming and Arabic Oud music along with hummus and coffee tastings.

The big coup was the presence of Dubai-based painter Abdul Qader Al Rais, who is regarded by many as the father of contemporary art in the Emirates.

Al Rais credits visits to the United States in the 1980s for strengthening his interest in landscapes.

His style ranges from realism, favouring softer hews of sky and desert, to the bold primary colours of his contemporary abstract expression.

His paintings celebrate the Emirates’ cultural heritage of wind towers, carved doors, boats and landscapes, occasional calligraphy and iconic floating squares.

Al Rais showed the opening night audience a video of the Dubai light rail, which he and two other Emirati artists recently painted in a mosaic of colours, a playful work of public art.

Al Rais is a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society and his work has been exhibited widely throughout the UAE and abroad.

Al Rais is the dean of the 25 artists represented, most of whom are in their 30’s and more than 60% of whom are women.

Their 47 works span unusually diverse media for one show: painting, sculpture, photography, textiles, furniture and graphic design, scanograph printing, animation and video performance art.

Since its founding in 1971, the Emirates’ arts community has been steadily growing and now boasts an array of vibrant multimedia talent that is fuelling the country’s stature as a serious arts hub.

The exhibit reflects this flourishing creative energy, across the generations.

The artists use traditional and emerging technologies to articulate their self-reflections and observations of the rapidly changing world.

The works in PAST FORWARD evoke Emiratis’ response to their rapidly evolving country, where turbocharged urbanisation transforms vistas from one day to the next and where contemporary influences mingle with tradition.

This is ideal turf for artists to explore.

Lateefa bint Maktoum’s painting The Last Look perfectly evokes the PAST FORWARD theme.

She portrays a faceless observer of change to convey Emiratis’ ability to embrace the future while maintaining their identity and respecting the past.

A female figure looks towards the horizon, revealing the construction of Palm Jebel Ali, an artificial archipelago.

Her suitcase symbolises Emirati heritage and the perseverance to keep traditions alive despite surrounding change.

Thousands of visitors are expected through June 28th and a variety of community education programmes are planned.

The MAC asked the UAE Embassy to provide books and established a dedicated Emirates’ section in the museum’s library.The exhibition’s national tour began last year with shows in Washington, DC; Fort Worth, Texas; and Los Angeles, California.

After Spokane, it is to head to East Lansing, Michigan’s new architectural landmark, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, designed by Iraqi-American architect Zaha Hadid and is to end at the University of Kentucky next April.

Additional information can be found at: www.northwestmuseum.

org/explore/exhibits/past-forwardcontemporary- art-emirates.