Abdul Qader Al Rais: UAE artist's landscape behind President Sheikh Mohamed during speech

The watercolour depicts Al Ain's Mubazzarah Dam and could be seen during the UAE head of state's address to the country

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An artwork by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais served as the backdrop to President Sheikh Mohamed's address to the nation on Wednesday night.

The piece, which features a ghaf tree in Mubazzarah Dam, is by the self-taught, Dubai-born artist. It depicts the rocky terrain of Jebel Hafit in Al Ain, with mountains spanning the background.

It was painted in 2019 and has been hanging in Sheikh Mohamed's office since 2020.

Sharing a photo of Sheikh Mohamed sitting in front of the work in 2020, Al Rais, 71, wrote on Instagram: "Oh God, protect our Sheikhs, direct them, make them open to good deeds, and make them veer away from evil."

It is watercolour on paper and measures 157 centimetres by 207cm.

Mubazzarah Dam is not the only work of Al Rais's on display in the presidential office.

In April 2020, the artist shared a photograph of Sheikh Mohamed reading with a piece, titled Qasr Al Hosn, in the background. The work featured depicts Qasr Al Hosn, a historical landmark in Abu Dhabi that formerly served as a fort.

Al Rais's Earth & Sky collection features a series of UAE watercolour landscapes. On his website, he says of the series: "Formative art is an exercise: it aims to train the eye, the heart and the hand, guiding them towards and entirety of colours, shadow, light, dark, illumination, certainty, doubt, peace, mindfulness, imagination, surroundings, beneficence, paradise lost, heaven borrowed, ultimate objectivity, even symbols.

"These are the paths of beauty and the slide toward the multiplicity of paradox... The narrative of colours is not the narrative of words or the sense of a tune apart from time (apart in the sense of discrimination, not absolutism). Rather the artist is more aware of their moment, colour, layout, explorations, cuttings, brushes and the shimmering of their shades."

In Al Rais's career that has spanned more than 50 years, he specialises in painting the people, landscapes and architecture of the UAE. His collection also includes calligraphy pieces, abstract work and sketches.

"It makes me so happy to see my work in these places," AlRais told The National in 2020. His painting of the Emirates Palace is also part of Sheikh Mohamed's collection.

The two met for the first time during the reopening of Abu Dhabi's Cultural Foundation in 2019. Speaking of Sheikh Mohamed, Al Rais says: "He's not only a good leader. You feel that he is a brother… that he is our family."

Al Rais is a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, which was established in 1980. He works predominantly with oil on canvas, and watercolour on paper.

The artist is not just celebrated in the UAE; his work was featured in the UAE Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, and is currently held by The British Museum, the Louvre, the Northwest Museum of Culture and Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, and the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, according to the Barjeel Art Foundation.

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Updated: July 14, 2022, 10:43 AM
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