Young generation of Gulf artists present new Arab narratives at Art Dubai

Showcased by Tabari Artspace, the trio from the UAE and Saudi Arabia represent a different wave of creative expression

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This year, Tabari Artspace’s group show at Art Dubai, which runs until Sunday at Madinat Jumeirah, is a celebration of a new generation of creative minds from the Gulf.

The DIFC-based gallery has a long history of highlighting the work of important Arab artists within the region and among the diaspora. Over the past 20 years, not only has it contributed to Dubai’s cultural vision, placing Arab art at the forefront, but it has helped to shape the careers of generations of emerging Arab talents.

For Art Dubai 2023, the gallery is presenting the work of three Gulf artists: Ziad Al Najjar and Hashel Al Lamki from the UAE, as well as Nasser Almulhim from Saudi Arabia.

“Artists of the Gulf have something new to show,” Maliha Tabari, Tabari Artspace’s founder, tells The National. “There's a genuine dialogue that's coming out from the Gulf now. It’s a dialogue that’s really intuitive and really emotional.”

Tabari, who is Palestinian but grew up between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, is passionate about introducing Arab artists to international audiences and changing narratives around Arab art and the Arab experience.

“Our region has something that's very uncertain about it,” she says.

“So, if I'm going to bring a dialogue of young Gulf artists to the fair and have them stand out, I had to feel like there was an uplifting, intuitive thread in all their works.”

Despite having distinct styles and outlooks, Tabari's presentation weaves a thread of continuity through the three artists' works, as they explore their internal worlds within the context of their external environments.

The booth is colourful, with one orange wall displaying 11 works by Al Lamki of varying sizes, another central wall with two large-scale works alongside smaller pieces by Al Najjar and one more with eight paintings by Almulhim, including a sculpture in the centre of the space.

Almulhim’s paintings stand out for their strong graphic elements that are simultaneously playful and precise. The painter and 3D artist produces geometric and organic forms not just as a creative process, but a form of therapy.

“My practice focuses on three main ideas: psychology, spirituality and feminism," Almulhim says.

“The reason I tackle these topics is because I struggled with depression. For me, making art is very personal, very expressive. When I paint, I try to heal myself and heal others.”

Almulhim’s work is intuitive. While made up of very defined geometric shapes, he doesn’t plan his composition as one might suspect. He works organically, "flirting" as he says, with the subconscious to guide him on what works aesthetically.

“That's the fun part of my practice. It’s like discovery, having a conversation with the canvas,” he says.

“Sometimes I'll end up disliking certain forms or I’ll add another colour to cover it then I'll build something on top of that. It's like a subconscious dialogue.”

Almulhim’s sculpture emerges as an extension of his painted works in the physical space. Bold and colourful but also minimal, it dances between abstract and spiritual ideas.

Emirati painter and multi-disciplinary artist, Al Lamki’s work is a refreshing, painterly depiction of Al Ain’s mountainous landscapes. His lush gestures and colour palette is mesmerising and wistful, as he explores the community’s relationship with its natural environment.

Al Lamki, who grew up in Al Ain, developed a strong connection with his home town while living in Abu Dhabi during the pandemic.

“I grew up near Jebel Hafeet and that was like the focal monument of — Al Ain you can see it from anywhere,” he says.

“The mountain actually belongs to the Al Hajar Mountain range, but it shifted and separated itself from the main range. It’s kind of doing its own phenomena in a way.”

Al Lamki spent time visiting the area and observing the changing colours at different times of the day; soaking in how the mountain was shaped through light and different weather conditions. He would also bring back rocks to his studio to study, reimagining them in his paintings and physically working them into the bases of many of his compositions.

Meanwhile, Al Najjar created a series of paintings on canvas that build on the themes he explored in his solo exhibition at Tabarai Artspace in January.

Al Najjar explores connections between the natural, constructed and spiritual realms, creating an interplay between organic and inorganic forms. Painted in an earthy and pastel colour palate in floating compositions, his pieces are guided by an intuitive method of working — with a balance of immediacy and instinct that results in powerful and entrancing pieces.

“They are three young emerging Gulf artists that are paving the way for the upcoming younger generation,” says Tabari.

“They are the new change makers of the narrative of the Gulf. Each and every one of these artists is going to empower other artists in a certain way.”

Art Dubai runs at Madinat Jumeirah until Sunday. More information is available at

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Updated: March 04, 2023, 7:41 AM