Abu Dhabi artist’s tea-leaves painting commemorates UAE as largest re-exporter of tea
Every day, millions of fresh tea leaves arrive in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port to be dried, processed and packaged for re-exportation in as quickly as 24 hours.
Such is the size and efficiency of the factory that the UAE is the world’s largest re-exporter of tea, with a 60 per cent share of the market.
To celebrate this fact and to mark the fifth Global Tea Forum, which took place on Dubai’s The Palm in April, the owners of the tea centre, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) commissioned an Abu Dhabi-based artist, Andrew Field, to create the seven-metre-long painting titled The Art of Tea – The Tea Route to Dubai.
Field is an established watercolour artist who is known for his landscape paintings, particularly those on Saadiyat Island. But for this artwork, he swapped his usual palette for one made with tea leaves.
“Tea originated in China, so the idea was to incorporate the Chinese traditions of art and to link it with the tea,” he says. “That’s why we decided to use tea instead of paint.”
After conceiving the idea in November and getting it approved in January, Field set to work sketching out the enormous image on a roll of high-quality watercolour paper in his back garden in Abu Dhabi.
Working in one-metre sections, he let the tea soak for several hours into the paper and then used brushes and water to create the different gradations.
The image depicts the ancient Silk Route from Kenya to Dubai. Showing the emirate’s tall towers and the port, across the Indian Ocean to India and Bangladesh and ending in Shanghai, China.
He completed the painting in less than three months, which, for an artwork of such a size, is an extraordinary achievement.
“It was a very ambitious project and took a lot of energy, but I’m extremely happy with the result,” he says. “I’ve also learnt an awful lot about tea,” he says with a laugh.
Field used different kinds of tea to create subtle hues.
“I was quite careful to use tea from the region I was depicting,” he says. “I used Malaika tea from Kenya for the first part, Assam and Darjeeling for the middle and Chinese green tea at the end.”
Ahmed bin Sulayem, the executive chairman at DMCC, explains that the painting was commissioned to raise awareness about Dubai’s growing role as the global trading hub for tea.
“As the volume of tea handled through the DMCC Tea Centre doubled in 2013 compared with 2012 and continues to grow at a record rate, it was appropriate to commission a landmark that signifies the strength of the tea trade and the strength of Dubai,” he says.
The painting was unveiled for the first time at the tea forum, but in the next few weeks it will take up permanent residence on the first-floor lobby of the DMCC’s head office, Almas Tower, Jumeirah Lakes Towers. The area is open to the public.
“It will be really interesting when people walk into the lobby to see it. I am hoping that they will find it fascinating when they realise it is not a painting produced with a traditional medium, but tea.”
• DMCC is open Sunday to Thursday from 8am to 5pm. The Art of Tea is located on the first floor of Almas Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai
Updated: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM