Artistically Yours

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Five artists diligently work to create works of art by seeking originally in the mundane keeping sustainabilit as the theme.

There is beauty in seeing and seeking originality in mundane things using discarded items to create works about self-identity, separation and the beauty of nature.

Yasmeen Maqbool talks to a few art crusaders from the Dubai International Arts Centre: Diyali Bhallah, Jeff Scofield, Beena Samuel, Stephanie Neville and Ahmed Al Faresi who have created a niche in working with found objects that echoes with their artistic sentiments and expression. These five artists diligently work on turning old clothes hangers, scraps of paper, magazines, newspapers, teabags, old curtains, nails, old wooden furniture, metal wires, grilles, glass, salvaged wood, and other construction materials of rubbish into beautiful and inspring works of art.

They have been working individually with found objects as used furniture, upscaling and turning them into art pieces for many years now. They believe in working with mundane, run of the mill items that people overlook. They turn them into beautiful artworks or use them in art pieces.

“We got commissioned to produce artworks with recycled pieces and it led to us working as a group for projects with sustainability as the theme,” explains Diyali, one of the instructors and directors at the centre for the past 10 years.

“Each of us have been working on similar themes like conceptual art, installations and art with found objects. The constructive criticism and the informal and easy bond that we share as friends and fellow artists proves very beneficial,” says Diyali.

Finding beauty in these casually disposed items to bring art to life from the recycling bin is indeed creativity at its best for the common man, and a challenge that these artists thrive on.

For Stephanie, beauty lies in the history of the objects. Of something useful being discarded, found again to apply in a different manner for which the object was originally designed. “The textiles I am using at the moment are recycled from a home decoration company. I like the idea that I’m making soft sculptures from someone’s curtains,” she says.

Diyali says, “The way that objects play off against each other in unexpected ways is what makes art so interesting.” She looks out for anything that has potential for art. For example it could be toilet paper or kitchen rolls, pieces of cutlery or crockery or textured fabric or pieces of metal from used structures.

There are pros and cons to using recycled material, she says.“The pros are that we are reusing materials and making art. The cons are that our families are ready to throw us out along with our recycled materials.” As a
mixed-media artist, she says working with used materials is a natural transition for her.

Beena who teaches experimental watercolour and silk painting says, “I like dabbling in many mediums, but I find
myself dabbling in many different styles.

But our sensibility is to create art that those who take our art home would not know otherwise.”

The geometric/organic forms, old world textures, colours, the weathered look beckons her to work with them.

Art is what keeps them together. Jeff explains, “We are pursuing more or less abstract themes, each in our own way. We meet once a week at the Dubai International Art Centre to pursue our artwork as an informal group, where the friendly criticism and constructive dialogue is beneficial to our artistic growth.” It is this key element that keeps them fresh, unique and inquisitive.

The remainder of the week they are free to create their artwork individually, because for them, it is a very personal journey to pursue one’s own expression.

Though the process of creating art work out of found objects is challenging, the artists seek to send a message to the viewers in their own way about beauty, its perception and importance of sustainable art.

Working in a minimalist style Jeff’s artworks are conceptual and focus on exploring natural materials as expressions of sustainable art. For instance, he transforms recycled paper, salvaged wood, metal and glass with a view towards expressing their intrinsic nature – the feel, the smell, and the sounds they emit. Jeff also uses organic materials such as seashells and cotton fabrics in order to express the cycles of life through art. Simply associating a few different materials together in unexpected ways brings out intriguing and expressive effects.

Beena believes ‘recycling or working with salvaged materials’ has immense possibilities and adds an interesting dimension to the UAE art scene. Also the UAE is known for producing huge amounts of waste so ‘Sustainable Art’ is of great interest and relevance.

For Stephanie, it is an environmental concern. She would like to highlight the waste accumulated by humans and the shocking slow destruction of our planet. However, Jeff is under no illusion that the artists’ message is all that is needed. Instead, he says using recycled materials is meant to be supplementary to the personal expression conveyed by the artists themselves. They don’t want to the stereotyped into that sustainable movement. “We are fine artists, and we want to express ourselves.”

The project they are currently working on is to complete 4 individual Artist In Residence programmes at the Liwa Art Hub in order to create Sustainable Art, then mount a group show of the artwork at the Abu Dhabi Art Hub. The exhibition is scheduled to start on 26 September 2015.